Panther runners push for the lead

Courtney Owens, Hannah Wright, Karina Miller and Meredith Collins crossed the finish line in order to help the Washougal girls cross country team win the league championship race Thursday, at Hockinson Meadows.

Owens finished the 5,000-meter course in fourth place with a time of 21 minutes, 36.5 seconds. Wright followed her in fifth place (21:53.5), Miller claimed sixth place (21:55.6) and Collins snagged seventh place (21:59.6).

“We were all in a line. We didn’t really plan that, it just happened, which is good,” Owens said. “It made me really proud of everyone. We all worked so hard for this.”

Head coach Terry Howard enjoyed watching the Panthers form a pack. Owens, Wright and Collins settled into a groove, which encouraged Miller to come along.

“A quarter of the way through, I thought we could at least get a four, five, six. Then Karina snuck in there at the end. That really made my day,” Howard said. “Hannah and Meredith do their best work in the last mile. Karina does too. Her effort really made the difference.”

Megan Anderson earned 12th place for the Washougal girls (22:44.8), Sydney Hickey notched 15th place (23:24.2) and Brooke Croeni took 17th place (24:49.9).

Washougal’s Thomas Normandeau couldn’t catch Aaron Brumbaugh of Mark Morris in the boys race. Brumbaugh won with a time of 16:22.3. Normandeau notched second place in 16:44.2.

“It’s fun racing Aaron because he sets such a good pace,” Normandeau said. “I just stayed with him for as long as I could. Towards the end, he pulled away from me because he’s such a strong runner.”

Howard said Normandeau is still on the learning curve.

“This is just his first full season as a cross country runner,” Howard said. “So he’s still learning lots of things out there.”

Adien Pullen placed 12th for the Washougal boys (18:22.5), Collin Manning claimed 14th place (18:39.8) and Nicholas Velardi finished in 15th place (18:45.6).

The Panthers enter the district championship races Saturday, at Lewisville Park in Battle Ground.

“Every one on the team knows they can run faster on Saturday,” Howard said. “I hope they take that to heart.”