By Josh Bronson

Pilot staff writer

Freshman Ally Manley concluded her inaugural cross country season with a bang as she finished fifth overall at the OSAA 4A Cross Country State Championships at Lane Community College in Eugene on Saturday.

andquot;She ran a very smart race,andquot; Coach Terry Axel said. andquot;She settled in right where she needed to be.andquot;

In the first half-mile of the race, Manley tucked in behind a few runners at the front of the pack and then began to pull away with the leaders, running in fifth place after the first mile.

andquot;I expected there to be more of a front pack for her to run with,andquot; Axel said. andquot;Instead, it was more of a top ten than a whole pack.andquot;

As the leaders began to pull away, Manley kept pace, but couldn't overtake the top four runners, finishing fifth overall with a time of 19:35.

Manley's fifth place finish was the best for a freshman in the new 4A, old 3A classification since Hayley Belli of Philomath finished fifth in 2003 with a time of 19:30.

The only runner to best that performance in recent years was Holli Dieu of Coquille, who is considered to be one of the best runners to ever come out of the South Coast, who took second place at state in 2002 as a freshman at 18:56.

But even with a top five finish, Manley wasn't completely satisfied with her performance.

andquot;For how I was feeling it was okay,andquot; Manley said, stating that she didn't feel well for a majority of the race.

With her top ten finish, Manley qualified for the ninth annual Oregon/Washington Border Clash, which pits the top 40 high school runners from each state against each other.

The event will take place on Sunday, Nov. 18 at the Nike World Headquarters Campus in Beaverton.

andquot;She's had a dream freshman season,andquot; Axel said. andquot;And she's just going to get stronger. She's probably the best girls' runner I've ever seen come through this school.andquot;

Taylor Wallace of Henley captured the 4A crown as she finished the race in 18:13, a full minute ahead of the next competitor.

Ashley Mayfield of Seaside came in second (19:18), followed by Meghan Whalen of Marist (19:22), Samantha Pummer of Siuslaw (19:28) and then Manley (19:35).

Siuslaw won their fourth straight state title with 58 points, 40 points ahead of second place Sisters (98).

In the boys' race, senior Willie Bennett and junior Linden Loren both improved their times from last year's state meet.

andquot;The boys ran well,andquot; Axel said. andquot;It was a little bit of a disappointment because it would have been nice to have the whole team there. The way they run in a swarm, I really think they could have had a shot at placing.andquot;

Bennett finished 44th overall with a time of 17:26. In 2006, he finished 74th at 18:09.

Loren was not far behind as he came in 51st at 17:31. Last year, Loren finished 54th with a time of 17:54.

andquot;We went out a little too fast in order to get in the front part of the pack,andquot; Bennett said. andquot;But other than that, I felt fine.andquot;

andquot;Our strategy was to get out behind the first ten spots or so before the course narrowed,andquot; Loren said. andquot;We came out a little fast, but we kind of had to so we didn't get stuck in back.andquot;

North Bend repeated as state champs as Spenser Lynass, Trevor Berrian and Steve Garboden finished second through fourth for the Bulldogs.