The flu bug proved to be too mountainous for the number two ranked Southern Oregon University Men’s Cross Country team. Three of SOU’s runners—including consistent 1st and 2nd runners Jared Hixon and Ray Schireman—came down with the flu overnight and weren’t able to race in Saturday’s championship.
Schireman was this year’s Cascade Conference champion and Hixon was an All-American last season. “Some sort of God-awful virus” was how Schireman described the sickness.
Making matters worse for the team, alternate runner Noah Oberriter fell ill as well, leaving SOU to compete with only 5 runners. The task was too tall of an order, as the SOU men placed 23rd. Trevor Lynn lead the way with a time of 25:52.5 [53rd place], followed closely by Caleb Diaz in 25:54.6 [56th]. Eli Stillman [119th, 26:27.8], Connor Cushman [143rd, 26:54.2] and Zach Boyd-Helm [150th, 26:56.6] rounded out the rest of the Raider men.
Soon after the race, Trevor Lynn reflected on the race day. “Having our top two guys sick and not able to race was a hard way to start our race day morning but we went out there and stuck to our plan the best we could. It was a rough way to finish the season of high hopes, but like Coach Grier says, you can’t control the uncontrollable.”
What’s not to be lost in the race, though, is the experience; the deep bond that goes beyond running. Lynn attributed this as he thought about his time running for Southern Oregon. “During my four and half years here at SOU, I couldn’t ask for a better experience and better teammates to do this with.”
Despite the disappointing performance, head coach Grier Gatlin remained level-headed. Following the race, Gatlin stated, “We were all disappointed to have this stroke of bad luck at this meet, I feel really bad for the three 5th year guys; especially Hixon because he couldn’t even make it out of the hotel.” As Gatlin mentioned seniority was prevalent amongst the squad this season, and mediocrity is not something this team is used too; since 2010, SOU has placed 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and now 23rd at the national meet.
Not all hope was lost for SOU cross country though.
The women’s team turned in a superb performance. Just like all season, Jessa Perkinson led the way for the SOU women. Fueled by her All-American effort [13th place, 17:56.0], the women’s team finished in 14th place. That far outperformed their ranking; prior to the meet, the women were ranked 21st in the nation. Senior Rebecca Lupescu and freshman Kayle Blackmore also performed well, as each produced a top-100 effort.
Freshman Margarita Lauer was next with a 126th place finish, running 19:30.8. Aspen Abbott [147th, 19:45.4], Marisa D’Orfani [150th, 19:47.6] and Braana Weber (182nd, 20:09.4] comprised the rest of SOU’s finishers.
Although the SOU women did not crack the top 10, this season is something to build on as the Raider team has lots of young runners. Besides Lupescu, the SOU women will return their entire top 7, which should be an important component of next year’s squads. “Since we have such a young team, I think we will just get faster and faster … I think the girls team will gain a lot of confidence moving forward to the next cross season,” says Kayle Blackmore. “We’re going to have more experience, more training, and more time in the program and I can’t see us doing anything less than getting ever faster and stronger.” A tantalizing future lays ahead.
Next up for Southern Oregon cross country: two-week running break that will be spent by consuming copious amounts of pizza. And lots of sleep.