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After a slow start to the season (due in no small part to the Chetco Bar Fire), the Brookings-Harbor cross country team looks to have finally hit its stride after a pair of strong performances in the final two meets of the regular season.
The Bruins logged some of their best times of the year at both the Myrtle Point Invitational and HDN League Meet in Fortuna.
“It’s been an exciting last bit of the season, (as they are) the two hardest courses we run all year,” said head coach Terry Axel.
At the Myrtle Point Invitational in Fortuna, the Bruins had one of their best results all year despite having only competed in junior varsity the three races prior.
“Myrtle Point (has) three massive hills and eight of the guys ran personal records (their fastest time of the seasons),” Axel said. “I’m like: ‘You gotta be kidding me!’”
The result is especially surprising for Axel, who has offered to do push-ups as an extra incentive for his runners to do well at the court.
“They almost got me into bets,” Axel said. “‘Hey if we (set a personal best) on this course, will you do push-ups?’ I did that two years ago and I had nine runners PR on that course.
“I had done the bet that time because some of the best runners I ever had had never PR’ed on that course.”
The result is all the more surprising considering that it was the Bruin’s first varsity race in a month.
As he had been all season long, sophomore Zachary Abblitt was the top finisher for the boys team. Abblitt placed fifth overall with a time of 18:04 in the 5k. Abblitt was followed by junior Andrew Enos who clocked in at 19:41 and freshman Christian Steendahl who registered a time of 19:51. The two finished 20th and 24th respectively, which mirrors their placements at the Hidden Valley Mustang Invitational, but with improved times of 40 and 50 seconds.
Running in just their second varsity race in five meets, the Bruins finished last out of five teams with 100 points.
“Wednesday we went down to Fortuna, which runs right out of the fairgrounds there in Rohner Park,” Axel said. “You run that loop twice, and again it’s hilly. Times weren’t great, but considering the course…”
Sophomore Zachary Abblitt finished on the podium with a second-place finish and personal-best time of 17:44.
He was followed by returning junior Mason Beeman, who ran a 19:37 to finish 14th overall. Freshman Christian Steendahl came in next with a time of 20:34 in 26th place.
Having completed the regular season, the Bruins will next compete at the 4A-3 Far West League Championships at Tugman State Park this Thursday, Oct. 26.
“I told the kids you gotta be under (20 minutes) if you’re gonna letter, and man, just about five of them now are just now down on it,” Axel said. “So I’m excited to see (what Thursday brings). I’m really excited with where they’re at.
“I don’t think we’re going to upset Siuslaw and North Bend, but where we started off compared to the team I’ve had for the last two meets, it’s kind of exciting.”
Zachary Abblitt looks to secure state berth at district
Amid a year plagued by injuries and uncertainty, one of the few constants for the Brookings-Harbor Cross Country team has been the steady performance of sophomore Zachary Abblitt.
Throughout the season, Abblitt has consistently been the frontrunner for the Bruins. In eight meets, Abblitt has finished in the top 10 all but once, and three of those finishes have been on the podium.
“I think it’s dedication, and all the motivation,” Abblitt said of his results.
And at the Far West League Championships later this week, head coach Terry Axel believes that Abblitt can earn a top five finish, which would secure him an automatic berth to the state championships. Axel noted however, that Thursday’s meet wouldn’t be easy.
“It’s going to be tough for Zack now,” Axel said. “South Umpqua’s got a couple of seniors and Siuslaw and North Bend got a senior that beat him at Myrtle Point.”
And judging by his most recent performance in Fortuna, where he ran a personal best time of 17:44 in the boys 3 Mile, Abblitt is in peak form to punch his ticket to state.
Abblitt’s time is a vast improvement from his performance at the same course just a year ago, where he clocked in at 19:04 for an eighth-place finish.
According to Abblitt, one of the reasons for his strong showing at Fortuna was due to Axel inserting the team into junior varsity races for a time. The move was a conscious decision on Axel’s part, as he felt several of his runners were behind on where they should and weren’t yet ready to be competing at the varsity level yet.
“It was kind of interesting,” Abblitt said. “The runners weren’t as fast; I got first at one of the races, and that kind of mentally helped.”
And two days before the district championships, that improved mindset has still remained with Abblitt.
“I feel pretty good,” Abblitt said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, so hopefully it’ll pay off.”