The Camas girls cross country runners could see for miles at the top of the mountain.
The largest classification in the state proved to be an easier obstacle for the Papermakers to climb. And for the second year in a row, they stood on the podium as state champions.
“We remember what happened last year, and all the hard work it took to get here, and we just worked harder,” said senior captain Megan Napier. “We all have quotes written on our legs. Mine says, ‘I run because I can and for those who can not.’ It reminds me that I am running for Camas and everybody who has been a part of this program.”
Alexa Efraimson beat all the 4A competitors to the top of the first hill and never looked back. The Camas sophomore beat defending state champion Jordan McPhee of Mount Rainier to the finish line for the second week in a row. Efraimson finished first in 17 minutes, 34.2 seconds, and McPhee came in about 37 seconds after her.
“I felt really honored to be able to win this title,” Efraimson said. “When I crossed that finish line, I was just super excited. I couldn’t wait for the rest of my teammates to get there.”
Efraimson didn’t have to wait long. Sophomore Alissa Pudlitzke clinched fifth place in 18:30.2.
“Down the stretch, I told myself ‘I’m this close. I don’t want to quit now.’ I think that’s the hardest I ever ran,” she said. “I’m so honored to be a part of this team. We all sold out today, and we all had a good day on the same day. That’s what we were hoping for.”
Freshman Maddie Woodson earned 14th place in 18:44.3, Napier followed in 15th in 18:47.1 and senior Camille Parsons claimed 32nd in 19:13. Sophomore Mckenzie Good crossed the finish line in 20:08 and freshman Alexa Jones followed at 20:30.7. Camas beat Tahoma 50-103, and 14 other schools, for the state championship.
“This is a truly amazing group of girls,” said head coach Mike Hickey. “That whole first year, it was me convincing them they could do this. Now they are showing great poise, and they have the drive and the determination to do it on their own.
“These girls have matured so much through those tough meets we had at Stanford, Richland, region and now state,” he added. “You can just see the girls believing in themselves and what they can accomplish as a unit, and that is really inspiring to watch.”
The day got even better for Camas. Seniors Andrew Kaler (35th place in 16:14.1), Andrew Duffy (41st in 16:16.8) and Tucker Boyd (50th in 16:22.4) led the boys team to ninth place at state. Riley Hein (16:48.1), Zach Hein (16:51.6), Taryk Boyd (17:04.8) and Oliver Stanchfield (17:11.4) all finished strong.
“To have a girls and a boys team both finish in the top 10 at state this year is something I am very proud to say,” Hickey said. “I think it says a lot about our program and how hard these kids work every day.”
The Camas girls could see for miles from the top of the mountain, and they want more. They will compete at Nike Cross National Northwest Regional Championships Saturday, at Eagle State Park in Boise.
The Papermakers will challenge teams from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii. The top two teams qualify for the NXN National Championships Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Portland Meadows race track.
“It’s been a complete and total focus by these girls to go back there and compete as a group beyond state,” Hickey said. “If we can make it to the national meet, that would set an expectation for our community. We want the younger runners to grow up and be a part of our program. That is the only way this is going to continue.”
Efraimson, Pudlitzke, Woodson and Napier will also run for Team Washington against the best from Oregon at Border Clash 14 Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.
“My best races are the ones I’m running with my teammates,” Napier said. “We’re more of a family than individual competitors. We all look to each other for support and we run for each other.”