Bandon's cross country teams have been on a roll of late, sweeping small-school invitationals.
But Tigers coach Brent Hutton is just happy that his team is finally getting healthy. Multiple runners have been dealing with various injuries for Bandon this season.
“The season has been a struggle,” Hutton said. “We’ve had our share of nagging injuries and little setbacks.”
Even with the injuries, Bandon’s boys and girls teams swept the Champs Invite on Sept. 24 and their home Fugate Farms Invite on Sept. 28. The teams have risen to No. 1 in the OSAAtoday coaches polls, the boys in 2A/1A and the girls in 3A/2A/1A.
Hutton knows that rankings mean nothing at this point of the season and he imparts that knowledge to his team.
“It’s important to stay hungry and working hard and not buy into the hype that you have already done something,” Hutton said. “We talk about how there is no name on the trophy until everybody shows up at the state meet. You've got to earn it.”
Hutton likes to give his teams a taste of the best competition, so this year the Tigers competed at the Ash Creek XC Festival, facing a lineup of mostly bigger schools. The boys finished 15th and the girls 19th in the varsity races.
“I talk to the kids a lot about how it is my job to find the meets where they can get beat up,” Hutton said. “So, by the time we get to district and state, those will be smaller meets as far as competition goes.”
Bandon has been consistent in earning trophies at the state meet, the boys winning five and the girls four over the past seven seasons. About three years into his 13-year tenure, Hutton started asking his freshmen the same question every year.
“I have asked every freshman class since then, 'What are your thoughts about running in college?'” Hutton said. “I will tell you what we need to do to get you there, to give you an opportunity.”
“Everybody doesn’t need to run at Oregon or Stanford. There are lots of places kids can run in college.”
Hutton said that his kids responded to that and he has been training athletes year-round since.
‘Since that year, I have never had a summer off,” Hutton said.
Three of those athletes are running in college now: Josh Snyder at Portland State, and two of Hutton’s children, Hunter at Western Oregon and Sailor at Boise State.
“That was the beginning of the culture change in our program,” Hutton said. “It has steadily become what is expected -- that you’re dedicated and if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.”
Hutton mentioned that a major breakthrough came when the boys team won the state title in 2016.
“It’s a weird step, you can be good for a lot of years -- but to break through and win it is a big thing -- sort of an eye opener of what it takes,” Hutton said.
This year’s team is led by a pair of seniors. Holly Hutton, Brent’s daughter, leads the girls and Ansen Converse leads the boys.
“Holly has been suffering from an injury all season,” Hutton said. “She has slowly been able to start running in the last three weeks. She has improved every race.”
Holly Hutton was the Tigers' top runner by 30 seconds at its most recent meet, winning in 20:32. Rounding out Bandon’s top five are junior Danielle McLain, sophomore Cassie Kennon, senior Aunika Miller and sophomore Analise Miller.
Bandon’s girls won April’s spring showcase for 3A/2A/1A with 46 points, defeating Enterprise (81) and Heppner (83). The entire lineup returns: Holly was sixth overall, McLain was 14th and Aunika Miller was 17th. Kennon and Analise Miller completed the scoring.
The girls will be challenged at state by a deep Vernonia team and always competitive Union and Catlin Gabel.
Converse won the Fugate Farms Bandon Invite in 16:54.94 and has been the Tigers top boys runner in every meet this season. He was ninth overall at the spring 2A/1A championships, as Union nipped Bandon for the team title, 48-50.
“Ansen is one of the hardest workers I have ever had,” Hutton said. “He is one of those kids I have to hold back and tell him enough is enough. He will be a very good runner at the next level.”
Junior Patton Clark and sophomore Carter Brown have been the Tigers second and third runners. Juniors Damian Avalos, Daniel Cabrera, Owen Brown and seniors Andrew Robertson and Orlando Avalos will be competing to fill out the scoring lineup.
Bandon will be challenged by Union, Knappa and Heppner in the team race at the state meet.
Bandon gets another chance to get beat up on Saturday. The team is heading to the Paul Mariman Invitational in Philomath, where some of the top 4A schools in the state will be competing.