Outlaws in the running

Runners hit the course during the start of the Enterprise/Joseph Invitationa cross country meet Friday at Alpine Meadows Golf Course.

In a heart breaker, the Outlaws girls cross country team lost to powerhouse Union-Cove by a single point at the Enterprise/Joseph Invitational meet Friday at Alpine Meadows Golf Course in Enterprise. The all-Wallowa County team’s top finishers earned an impressive 37 points, just behind Union-Cove’s 36 points.

The girls team has an eye on winning the district meet at the end of the month and dreams of doing well at state, but Friday’s meet was a testament to one of the many variables of running cross country as opposed to track — the course isn’t always what it seems.

While the team’s runners all wear uniforms that say “Enterprise,” the team includes runners from all three county schools. Joseph senior Isabelle Tingelstad has been one of her team’s strongest runners for four years, qualifying for the state meet in Eugene in 2013 as a freshman.

As they were finishing the first lap, Tingelstad and Enterprise junior Eliza Irish were shoulder to shoulder in the lead with Enterprise sophomore Karli Bedard in fifth. The girls were off to a screaming start looking for a home win and a chance to beat rival Union-Cove, the team that beat them by only seven points at the Catherine Creek Scamper in Union on Sept. 9.

Tingelstad started to pull away from the pack, but in the second lap Union-Cove’s Alisa Fox — winner of the Catherine Creek Scamper — assumed the lead. Tingelstad and Irish were close behind. It was the final lap where Fox and Tingelstad lost their way. Fox ended up in the 9th spot and Tingelstad finished 11th.

“I felt strong and thought I was going to win,” Tingelstad said after the race. “I was slowly gaining ground, but we both went too far.”

Fox and Tingelstad realized their mistake, got back on course, but couldn’t make up the lost time.

Jamie Baxter of Union-Cove was the winner at 22:07, followed by Irish, who finished in 22:20. Bedard held on to the fifth place, while freshman DeeDee Duncan placed sixth. Tingelstad at 11th rounded out the top five runners who made up the team’s score.

Irish said talented freshmen like Duncan and Isabelle’s sister Elise Tingelstad have been a huge help to the team. Elise Tingelstad said she had to sit out the race due to a possible stress fracture and likely will sit out until the district meet as she heals.

“I think people have been working hard this year,” Irish said. “The girls got really close and it’s nice to have the teammates pushing you.”

The Outlaws have depth to go with their considerable talent. Not far out of the chase for points was Bedard in 13th and sophomore Ella Coughlan at 14th. Elven of the team’s 13 runners competed Friday.

The boys team has incredible talent and depth as well with 15 runners competing Friday. They, too, have their eyes on qualifying for the state meet Nov. 5 in Eugene. The boys placed fourth behind Union-Cove, La Grande and Baker. Of those three teams only Union-Cove will be at the district qualifying meet in Pendleton on Oct. 28.

Jacob Evarts was the top Wallowa County boys finisher, placing eighth with a time of 19:52. He was followed by Brycen Locke who placed 12th in a time of 20:29. Other top finishers for the team were senior Jacob Strampe at 12th, junior Sebastian Hobbs who placed 29th, senior Aaron Borgerding at 30th and sophomore Evan Johnson at 31st.

During a brief ceremony where the seniors present flowers to their parents, Evarts said racing wasn’t fun or easy, but after Friday’s meet he seemed pleased with his finish and with his team.

“Cross country is not a fun sport,” Evarts said, “but the team is fun.”

The Wallowa County team has always had talented runners, but this year’s showing at the home meet was impressive.

“We’re doing some different things and being patient,” Coach Dan Moody said. “The kids are working hard and we have a lot of talent — I’m very fortunate.”

The girls credit their success to their coach and to the bond they are developing this year. After the confusion, the tears and the one-point loss, the girls took off their running shoes for a post-race jog across the golf course. After regrouping, they lined up for a song and dance routine for their parents and fans. Teamwork for these runners is on and off the race course.

But it’s not just the coaches and teammate that help push the team to its potential. The course was lined with parents, students and running fans on a beautiful, yet hot, fall day.

“I thought we competed well and I liked seeing the community coming out to support us,” Evarts said.

Moody said he is taking training up a notch with two weeks of daily doubles to get the kids the miles and speed workouts they need to be competitive at the district championship meet.

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