EUGENE — In the eyes of the OSAA, it’s a second straight state title. Unofficially, it’s a three-peat.
Either way, the Wallowa Valley cross-country team completed what head coach Dan Moody called the best season in program history.
Zac Knapp completed his undefeated season by trouncing the field and the top five Outlaws all finished in the top 20 as Wallowa Valley claimed another 3A state championship Saturday, Nov. 6, at Lane Community College in Eugene.
“They competed extremely well for what they accomplished today,” head coach Dan Moody said Saturday afternoon following the race. “They’re still celebrating right now.”
They’ll be celebrating for a while, too.
With former standout David Ribich among the spectators, the heavily favored Outlaws did what many — including themselves — expected them to do. Wallowa Valley posted a team score of 50 points, giving it plenty of breathing room ahead of runner-up Westside Christian, which had 86 points.
“We pretty much took care of everybody,” Moody said. “We were the team to beat, and nobody beat us.”
The team’s depth, a major piece of the success, was evident Saturday. Knapp posted a time of 15:52.3 to win by 36 seconds despite a soggy course that had just been doused with rain.
The weather was Moody’s only source of disappointment, as he felt with better conditions, all of the runners could have set personal bests. Even then, the top six runners all had times under 18:30, and all seven broke the 19:30 mark.
“We really pulled through. We did exactly what we were hoping to do,” Knapp said. “To have three state championships out of four years is phenomenal.”
How strong was the team Saturday? Wallowa Valley could have swapped Knapp’s placing with its seventh runner, Andrew Nordvedt, who placed 40th in a time of 19:23.2, and still won the state title. The top six runners were all across the finish line before any other team’s fourth-place runner.
“We were all relaxed and pretty confident going into it,” said Bayden Menton, the second runner across the line for Wallowa Valley and eighth overall at 16:51.3. “Based on the hypothetical (meet) we knew we had a good lead, but we knew we had to run (well). Everybody knew what they had to do to come out on top. Knowing we had a good chance at winning helped, and (then) just run your race, give it all you got.”
Ian Goodrich placed 12th overall in 17:47.4 and was the third Wallowa Valley runner across the line. Levi Ortswam placed 15th in 18:05.7, and Weston Wolfe was 18th in 18:21.0 to round out the top five.
“I think there is just that will to run for everybody,” Goodrich said.
Chase Homan was 22nd overall in a time of 18:25.3.
“We were preaching to them everybody on the team matters,” Knapp said. “...What separates us is we wanted this. We wanted to keep the streak alive.”
It’s the fourth OSAA title for the program, alongside championships claimed in 1995, 1996 and 2019, and fifth counting the unofficial title claimed in the spring.
But Moody said this one outshines the others, reaffirming a point he made last week.
“Still bar none,” he said. “I really think they are, just for overall performances (and) working together. … Those teams wouldn’t even hold a candle to these kids.”
As for Knapp, who turned in a perfect season, the veteran coach said his 2021 was the best ever by a runner in the program. And it’s hard to argue with it, given Knapp not only won the state title, but twice broke the school record.
“He had the best time there — everywhere,” Moody said. “He was on a goal, once the decision was made for him, he was focused and that was it. He was determined to be the state champion. He wanted to go out in style this year, and with a winning team. He accomplished everything he wanted to do.”