Vancouver, WA–The Southern Oregon Men’s Cross Country Team placed fourth and Women 15th overall at the NAIA National Cross Country meet in Vancouver, Washington.
Leading the men at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Cross Country Course was junior Noah Oberriter who ran 25:06 in the 8k and placed 11th overall. “Sometimes in a race, in the beginning, the guys try and be in the front and try and win the race in the first 100 meters,” said Oberriter. “But in cross country, this in an 8k, you aren’t gonna win in the first 100 meters.”
Following Oberriter were teammates Connor Cushman (15th, 25:13), Kevin Poteracke (24th, 25:24), Ray Schireman (71st, 26:13), Caleb Diaz (72nd, 26:14), Ryan Alexander (95th, 26:25), and Aidan Paulk (107th, 26:34).
In the first half of the race, the men’s team stuck to their strategy, and started at a slower pace, and by the end, Oberriter, Cushman, and Poteracke took home the All-American title. “I’m gonna go out at the pace that’s gonna get the most points where I’m gonna do the best,” continued Oberriter.
Jessa Perkinson, the runner up for the NAIA National Champion became a 10 time All-American athlete at this meet, leading both her team and the race pack at a time of 17:20 for a second place finish in the 5k.
“I feel really blessed to have gotten to place among such talented athletes over the past few years. Yeah, I’m really fortunate,” said Perkinson. “The whole time I was trying to keep passing people, passing people, and when you’re just focusing on that you know and doing your best the place and time kind of come naturally,” she continued.
Following Perkinson was Jenna Storms (58th, 18:45) Shayla Potratz (89th, 19:07) Bree Weber (119th, 19:31), Kim Nava (167th, 20:09), Jamie Chelberg (174th, 20:17), and Allex Bachtell (204th, 20:44).
The grass course was technically challenging with its sharp turns, final hill, and loops. The men had to run the loop four times, and the women ran a partial loop and then two full loops. “They just have to execute really really well,” said former SOU cross country runner Natalie Berania before the race. “It is all grass so your legs get drained really quickly because it’s so forgiving,” the alumna continued. “They’re just going to have to hammer and grind during that second half.”
“It was a really good course– it was challenging which made it feel like I was working harder the whole time. It felt like I was giving equal effort throughout the whole thing,” said freshman Shayla Potratz . “I really wanted to make sure I was pushing through the whole time and giving my 100% the whole time.”
This was senior, Connor Cushman’s fourth consecutive year running in the nationals meet. “Cross [Country] is more of a mind game than anything,” he said. “You’ve gotta be smart.” This is the last race that the Portland native will run for SOU, and he was, overall happy with his season. “If I got last place, you’ve go to be happy no matter what. You don’t get them back, nobody gets a do-over.”
With the race a driveable distance from Ashland, many alumni runners and family members of the athletes came to the meet. “All the people who showed up today to just support us. It’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot of love coming out of this tent,” said Cushman.