Crescent Valley's Emily Wisniewski impressed with strong early-season performances in the Ultimook and Ash Creek XC meets.
Crescent Valley's Emily Wisniewski impressed with strong early-season performances in the Ultimook and Ash Creek XC meets.

Crescent Valley freshman Emily Wisniewski was not that well known coming into her first year of high school cross country competition. It didn’t take long for that to change.

Wisniewski ran to a second place finish at the early-season Ultimook race and then finished seventh one week later at the prestigious Ash Creek XC festival on Sept. 11 running against many of the top 6A girls. She has since won five races and has the top time in 5A by more than 40 seconds.

“As a freshman she was under the radar a little bit because she didn’t really have much of a seventh or eighth grade season in middle school,” Raiders coach Tyler Bushnell said. “We knew she was good, but she burst onto the scene right away with our first couple meets.”

Bushnell had good things to say about his star freshman. 

“She is running phenomenally, staying healthy and awesome in practices,” Bushnell said. “She has been rock solid.”

Crescent Valley has the No. 2-ranked girls team in the state. Its main competition is in the same town -- league rival and No. 1-ranked Corvallis

“We’ve seen them multiple times,” Bushnell said. “The girls all know each other, so it is an interesting matchup. They are loaded and tough to race with for sure.”

Since moving to 5A in 2006, the Crescent Valley girls teams have finished second three times and earned seven trophies. Senior Ava McKee is another top-10 runner in 5A this season. 

The Raiders boys team features four experienced runners that are all ranked in the top 10 in 5A: seniors Blake and Cade Byer and Henry Coughlin, along with junior Kanoa Blake

“Those guys have been our four horsemen all season long,” Bushnell said. “They are a tough crew. It plays out in practice as well. A lot of years we’ve had one guy running that fast, but to have four of them pushing each other daily is quite the boost.”

Crescent Valley and Crater are the top two ranked boys teams in 5A, separated by a mere point on the hypothetical state meet. The Raiders finished fourth in 2018 and third in 2019 at the state meet and will be chasing the first state title in school history since the 1980s. The 5A division did not run a season-ending meet last year, so the Raiders competed at the Rose City Invite in April with some of the top 6A teams.

“I like to think that a lot of our success started last April,” Bushnell said. “Our team rallied around that little season and as coaches we tried to make the most of it and make it as real as possible. That 6A meet was a good way to test ourselves at the end of the season. That set the tone for a good track season and for some valuable summer training.”

Crescent Valley will be competing at its district meet on Saturday at the 5A Mid-Willamette conference championships at Seven Oak Middle School in Lebanon. 

“We are excited. It’s a new course,” Bushnell said. “We ran it once this year at the district preview meet. It’s an interesting course with a mixture of field space and high trails. It’s a good chance to punch that ticket to state and get that final tune-up.”

The Mid-Willamette is the only league to hold its meet on Saturday. Most leagues held their district meets on Wednesday, giving teams 10 days between district and state.

“Our league has weighed the pros and cons about having it on a Saturday with more spectators and doing it like a complete event, versus kind of an odd Wednesday afternoon,” Bushnell said.

“With our racing schedule this season, having a week between district and state, we are going to do fine. We are going to feel recovered and be ready for some fireworks at state.”