By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

Three Bruin varsity cross country runners put their talents on display at the 4A state championship on Saturday, Nov. 1, on the campus of Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore.

The boys sole qualifier, Gage Northrup, placed 67th in the boys division, while Ally Manley and Nicole Ledford - the two girls representatives - placed 17th and 57th, respectively.

According to Bruin Head Coach Terry Axel, the race was not only the culmination of the Bruins' season, it was also a great opportunity to further motivate his runners.

On the day prior to the race, instead of going through the standard walk-through, Axel had the opportunity to take the Bruins to watch the Pac-10 Cross Country Championships.

andquot;Getting to see the best of the Pac-10 run was a really bid deal for (the runners),andquot; Axel said. andquot; That's the kind of thing that really gets them going.andquot;

Axel also said that the experience lets his athletes know where they can go with the sport, and what the end result of all their hard work can be.

andquot;They got to meet some of the University of Oregon runners, and I think it really made an impact,andquot; he said.

The next day the Bruins were primed to put on their own performances, and did so on a 3.1-mile course that Axel said wasn't as fast as it might appear.

andquot;For some reason, it's not a fast course,andquot; he said. andquot;Luckily it was dry, because the course tends to get mucky after a couple of races.andquot;

In recent years Axel noted that he has seen times affected as a result of the course, but this year the effect was negligible.

Gage Northrup finished with a time of 18:08, a positive result according to Axel.

andquot;He ran well, and I think that there's more in him,andquot; Axel said. andquot;Maybe this race will light a fire under him for next year.andquot;

Nicole Ledford, who Axel said was a pleasant surprise all season, finished at 22:16.

andquot;We talked and I told her she could turn in a 22 flat, and she did it,andquot; Axel said.

Her successful season was certainly a result of intense summer training, including a grueling high altitude camp, according to Axel.

andquot;She really 'bought in' and trained hard at the Steen Mountain Training Camp, which is held at 8,000 feet,andquot; he said.

Another big factor in Axel's mind is Ledford's attitude.

andquot;You can't coach desire,andquot; he said.

Perennial Bruin star Ally Manley crossed the finish line with a time of 20:51.

Axel said Manley was a little disappointed with her finish, considering she had beaten the second, third and fourth place finishers in the race previously this season.

andquot;It was also a little bit of a puzzlement to me - I thought she would beat them,andquot; Axel said.

Axel said he wasn't disappointed because he knew Manley had put forth the effort he always wants to see.

Axel also had some kind words for Manley.

andquot;I feel she's the most gifted female runner that has come through the school in its history, and that's saying a lot,andquot; Axel said.

With the season and the state race concluded, Axel said he looks back on both fondly.

andquot;It was a great season, and a great trip,andquot; he said. andquot;The future looks good, too. I hope that seeing the Pac-10 race might motivate them to have a great off-season, which translates into a great season next year.andquot;