Evergreen Storm wins the day at nationals

Washougal and Camas runners share spotlight

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The Evergreen Storm youth girls team finished in sixth place at the Junior Olympics National Championships Dec. 14, in San Antonio, Texas. Pictured (left to right) are Misun Chong, Carla Jooste, Carlee Reed, Lauren Mahnke, Emily Wilson, Ashlin O'Neil, Kaylee Merritt and Serena Smith.

The Evergreen Storm Track Club had an exceptional day at the Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championships Dec. 14, on the National Shooting Range in San Antonio, Texas.

A total of 25 runners from the club qualified for nationals. Each race featured around 400 competitors from all over the country. The Evergreen Storm had two top 25 All-American performances and the youth girls became the fourth team from the club to finish top 10 in the nation. Founder Scott Slamp said the kids and their coaches, Mike McKinney and Brian O’Neill, worked extremely hard.

“We had a terrific nationals meet this year and we are so proud of the kids,” Slamp said. “The runners were definitely ready for the challenge, and the results showed that.”

Camas runners Emily Wilson, Carla Jooste, Kaylee Merritt and Ashlin O’Neill helped the 13- to 14-year-old girls team earn sixth place against 32 other squads from across the country. Wilson led the way with her second All-American performance. She finished the 4K race in 24th place with a time of 15 minutes, 4 seconds. Teammate Serena Smith grabbed 64th place (15:39), Jooste took 88th place (15:52), Merritt notched 97th place (15:56) and O’Neill claimed 100th place (15:56).

“It was truly a great all-around performance by these girls,” Slamp said. “They all really went for it.”

Washougal runner Gabriel Dinnel is the first boy from the club to become an All-American. He clinched 20th place in the 11- and 12-year-old division 3K with a time of 10:32.

The first Evergreen Storm youth boys team finished in 13th place out of 39 teams at nationals. Miguel De La Melena gained 32nd place (13:39) in a 4K that featured more than 440 runners. Sam Johnson snagged 97th place (14:10), Kyle Cooper clinched 115th place (14:17), Aiden Pullen claimed 165th place (14:31) and Sean Flynn finished in 220th place (14:51). Cooper and Pullen are from Washougal.

The Storm midget girls team grabbed 26th place with the help of Camas runners Rachel Blair, Mackenzie Merritt and Avery Minich. Blair finished the 3K in 179th place with a time of 12:21. Merritt took 314th place (13:17) and Minich notched 334th place (13:31).

Olivia Dinnel, of Washougal, earned 100th place in the girls 9- to 10-year-old division 3K with a time of 12:46.

“We have a wonderful group of kids and families, and they are all so determined,” Slamp said. “I can’t wait till next year.”