Cannonball Croeni

Washougal High School senior leads all Washington 2A runners

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Dylan Croeni competed with 78 of the best high school cross country runners from Washington and Oregon in the 2010 Nike Border Clash Sunday, in Beaverton.

A cross country race that begins with the firing of a cannonball might frighten most people, but Dylan Croeni was ready to go.

The Washougal High School senior finished in 12th place out of the top 79 runners from Washington and Oregon at the 2010 Nike Border Clash Sunday, at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.

Croeni completed the flat 4,400-meter course in 14 minutes, 16.77 seconds. He was the 10th best runner from Washington, who creamed Oregon by a margin of 31 points.

“When I first found out about Border Clash as a sophomore, I told everybody I’d kill to run in this race,” Croeni said. “I never thought I would be good enough to make it. Now, I’ve run it twice, which is just insane.

“On this planet, this is the best cross country race. Bar none,” he added. “You hear that cannon blast and the fireworks, and you run as fast as you can. And then you have the best runners from two different states clashing at the start. When does that happen anywhere else in the world?”

Croeni crossed the finish line as the leading 2A runner from Washington, which was his ultimate goal. It meant that he passed Sehome’s Scott Carlyle, who defeated Croeni for the 2A state championship in Pasco two weeks ago.

“Oregon and Washington have some of the best runners in cross country, and to be right behind some of them was truly great,” Croeni said. “I could see the light right in front of me, and for it to be in my reach was just awesome.”

A year ago at Border Clash, Croeni settled for 65th place. Twelfth is much more satisfying.

“It’s cool to bring Border Clash to Washougal, and to give the school a taste of it,” he said.

Croeni has one more event to conquer, the Nike Cross National open invitational Saturday, Dec. 4, at Portland Meadows. The event begins at 9 a.m.

In a deep field of 184 runners, Croeni captured 12th place at the regional qualifier Nov. 13, in Boise. He completed the 5-kilometer course in 15:59.2, but finished a few spots shy of qualifying for the championship race.

Croeni still plans to give it a go in the open race, which will feature runners from all around the United States.

“I was 13th last year,” he said. “This year, I’m going for the win.”