Southridge senior Collin Penuel trudges through the mud during the Ultimook Race on Saturday. (Photo by Ryan Jones)
Southridge senior Collin Penuel trudges through the mud during the Ultimook Race on Saturday. (Photo by Ryan Jones)

Southridge senior Collin Penuel is emerging as a darkhorse contender in 6A boys cross country.

Penual is off to a terrific start in his first two meets. He followed a runner-up finish in the senior class race at the Wilsonville Night Meet on Aug. 25 with a victory Saturday in the Ultimook Race at Hydrangea Ranch in Tillamook.

“It all started last year,” Southridge coach Michael Christiansen said of Penuel. “He had a really big breakout last year, and he had a little bit of a rough state meet. But I think that actually motivated him.”

Last year, Penuel improved his 5,000-meter time by more than one minute (15:41.4) but struggled in the 6A meet at Lane Community College, clocking 16:36.3 to finish 62nd. The time was well off the 15:47.0 he ran at Lane in the Northwest Classic about two months earlier.

“He was shooting for like top 20, top 25. He just didn't have a great race,” Christiansen said.

This season, Penuel opened at the Night Meet by running the 3,000 course in 8:47.9, dueling with Wells senior Asher Danielson (8:47.0) down the stretch.

“He really wanted to win that Night Meet,” Christiansen said. “He got edged at the wire.”

Penuel came back Saturday to place first in the 6A/5A heat at the 24-team Ultimook Race with a 5,000 time of 15:58.42. He pulled away in the second half of the race to beat Lake Oswego senior Leo Cook (16:18.02) by nearly 20 seconds.

Penuel banged his knee during a river crossing but was able to shake it off and finish strong.

“He said it didn't hurt his stride, and he just kept going,” Christiansen said. “It was bleeding pretty good. He looked like he was straining a little bit, but boy, he ran that last 1,200 just so good.”

Penuel's next big race is the Northwest Classic on Sept. 23 at Lane. He had a breakout performance at the Classic last year, finishing 10th.

“We're really going to target that one,” Christiansen said.

Penuel has high goals for the season.

“He wants to go sub-15, get top five at state at least, and maybe he has a chance to win,” Christiansen said. “He has a passion for it. I almost have to hold him back. He's the hardest-working kid I've ever coached. He's not the most talented kid I've ever had, but he just works so hard.”

Add Ultimook

South Albany won the 6A/5A boys team title at the Ultimook, edging Cleveland 146-147. The RedHawks were led by senior Matthew Resnik (16:30.83), who was third.

In the 4A/3A/2A/1A boys meet, Newport scored 71 points to pull away from Kingston, Wash. (153) for first place. Cottage Grove junior Carter Bengtson was the winner (16:22.57).

Crescent Valley junior Emily Wisniewski, the two-time 5A champion, won the 6A/5A girls race in 17:53.8, identical to her winning time from a year ago. Junior Elektra Higgins (18:18.49) of Peninsula, Wash., was second.

Lakeridge had five runners in the top 15 – led by senior Breckyn Kornachuk (sixth) – to win the 6A/5A team title. The Pacers outscored runner-up Crescent Valley 47-70.

Philomath held off Oregon Episcopal 56-77 for first place in the 4A/3A/2A/1A girls race. Oregon Episcopal senior Morgan Matthews (20:03.98) won a duel with junior teammate Lauren Tittel (20:04.02) for first place. Philomath sophomore Ana Candanoza (20:25.93) was third.

Marist Invite

Sheldon teammates Adam Reeder and Malachi Schoenherr recorded the best 5,000 boys times in the state so far this season Saturday in the 10-team Marist Invite.

Reeder, a senior, and Schoenherr, a sophomore, finished 1-2 with official times of 15:55.7. The Irish also got a third-place finish from sophomore Benjamin Kehrein (16:12.8), but settled for second place in the meet behind South Eugene, which outscored them 51-65.

South Eugene also finished first in the girls meet, beating Junction City 21-54. The Axe had four of the top five finishers, led by junior Elizabeth McCart (19:15.4), who matched the best time in the race with North Eugene senior Artana Nice.