Croeni stands tall in second place at state

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Washougal High School senior runner Dylan Croeni (center) stands on the podium in second place at state Saturday, in Pasco.

Dylan Croeni had the tenacity to bring a state cross country title home to Washougal, but defending champion Scott Carlyle of Sehome had the edge in experience.

The battle between the top two high school runners in the 2A boys state championship race had fans on the tiptoes of their feet Saturday, at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Croeni grabbed the lead during the third and final mile of the 5,000-meter hilly course, but Carlyle outkicked him to the finish line by one second. Both times were staggering. Carlyle clocked in at 15 minutes, 30.8 seconds, and Croeni followed in 15:31.9.

“I gave it all that last mile. We were both going for the win,” Croeni said. “He had that one extra second in his heart to outkick me.”

It would be understandable for Croeni to want to forget all about that one second, but he would rather embrace it. A year ago at state, Croeni jumped from 74th place as a sophomore to fourth place as a junior. He believed he could compete for a state title as a senior, and that turned him into a more dedicated runner.

“I never thought I’d be able to do something as excruciating as that last mile, let alone run three sub five-minute miles back-to-back,” Croeni said. “That was the hardest battle of my life. To be the one guy who pushed the defending state champion and gave him a run for his money is something I’m never going to forget. It was a really great experience.”

Croeni plans to use that experience as motivation Saturday, when he competes in the Nike Cross Nationals Northwest Regional event in Boise. He also looks forward to racing Carlyle again at Border Clash, on Sunday, Nov. 21, at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

“I have really enjoyed running for Washougal High School,” Croeni said. “The night before state was the last with my teammates. There’s more I could have done to be prepared, but I wanted to have fun. That might have been that one second, but I’ll never forget it.”

The Washougal boys finished in 16th place as a team. Sean Eustis took 23rd in 16:31.8, and Isaac Stinchfield notched 90th in 17:19.1. Noah Collins (18.41.7), Brendan Casey (18:43.7), Josh Banks (19:37.3) and Michael Huck (20:07.6) also posted some good times. Kendall Utter placed 74th for the Panther girls in 20:49.1.

Camas runners make their mark at state

It has been a long time since the Camas High School girls cross country team cracked the top 10 at state. On Saturday, the Papermaker girls placed eighth out of 16 teams and finished one point shy of nemesis Prairie.

“It was pretty impressive seeing the character of the girls shine through in these last few weeks of the season,” said head coach Mike Hickey. “They really came together as a team.”

Megan Napier nipped at the heels of the Prairie runners, before settling into 32nd place in 19:42.7.

“By spring and the next year, I think she can beat those girls,” Hickey said. “She’s such a great competitor, and she’s only going to get better.”

Jackie Premo put the finishing touches on her high school career by clinching 38th at state in 19:54.2.

“Jackie had a great day. It was probably her best race as a high school athlete,” Hickey said. “It’s an exciting day when your best race is your last race.”

Austen Reiter finished 40th (19:57.8) and Lindsay Wourms earned 57th (20:15.4). Kimi Knight (21:32.8), Savannah Cooper (21:41.5) and Trisha Patterson (22:06) also turned in some quality times.

The Camas boys claimed 13th place. Andrew Kaler notched 56th in 16:48.1, and Andrew Duffy (16:53.8) and Tucker Boyd (17:00.4) were right behind in 59th and 64th. Rounding out the times for the boys were John Doyle (17:25.8), Anthony Kern (17:37.5), Miles Goritski (17:44.6) and Austin Vaughan (17:50.5).

“I think next year is going to be exciting. You could see the determination on the faces of our girls and boys to come back next year and accomplish more,” Hickey said. “Five of our top-seven boys and girls should be back next year. There are not a lot of teams in the state that can say that.”