Milltown Project breaks the ice

Camas runners win NXR to qualify for nationals

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Eight inches of snow greets runners at the start of the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Saturday, in Boise, Idaho. Camas Milltown Project club members Alissa Pudlitzke, Maddie Woodson, Emma Jenkins, Kaylee Merritt, Emily Wilson, Gabrielle Postma and Brooke Roy (wearing green) captured first place at the 16-team meet.

The view from the start line for these Camas runners was like nothing they had seen before.

It was a cool 27 degrees with eight inches of snow on the ground when the gun went off at the girls Nike Cross Northwest Regional Saturday, on the Eagle Island cross country course, in Boise, Idaho.

Alissa Pudlitzke, Maddie Woodson, Emma Jenkins, Kaylee Merritt, Emily Wilson, Gabrielle Postma and Brooke Roy were swift, courageous and cautious with every step.

“That was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Wilson said. “The scariest part were the turns. I didn’t know if I could stand.”

The “Milltown Project” club members kept pumping blood for each other in the cold.

Emma Jenkins completed the 5,000-meter ice rink in eighth place with a time of 19 minutes, 27.6 seconds. Pudlitzke took 14th (19:48.6), Woodson grabbed 36th (20:43.5), Merritt earned 38th (20:47.9), Wilson finished 44th (20:51.9), Postma placed 56th (21:10.8) and Roy followed in 57th (21:12.8).

The combined effort helped Milltown win the regional championship trophy by 34 points. All seven Papermakers were rewarded with an opportunity to run together at the Nike Cross Nationals Saturday, Dec. 6, on the Glendoveer Golf Course, in Portland. The girls race starts at 10:05 a.m.

“We all wanted to go to nationals so bad. We were not going to let the weather affect us,” Woodson said.

“We would rather win this in a few inches of snow instead of lose it in a few inches of snow,” Pudlitzke added.

The magic continues for the Camas High School cross country program. The girls finished in first place at state in 2011, 2012 and 2014, but this is the first time they have ever won a Nike Cross Regional.

“What a year,” said Pudlitzke, the only senior followed by a junior and five freshmen. “I’m so proud of these girls. To be running at this level when they are so young is amazing. I’m sad to go, but excited to see what they do in the future.”

The Milltown Project has a few more races on the agenda. Jenkins, Pudlitzke and Wilson join Team Washington against the best from Oregon in BorderClash 16 Sunday, at Nike World Headquarters, in Beaverton. A top 10 finish for these girls at Nike Cross Nationals would be icing on the cake.

“Our goal is to pull it together and give Alissa that one last amazing race,” Wilson said. “The next few years could be even better.”