Hometown runners named top in state

Coach says area has 'turned into a bit of a running mecca'

From left to right: Daniel Jackson, Spencer Twyman and Luc Utheza cruise together to victory during a league cross-country meet against Union High Sept. 25, at Round Lake in Camas.

Aspen Ashcroft (third from left) concentrates seconds before the horn during a race against Union High Sept. 25, at Round Lake. "She has really stepped up and is now one of our top runners because of her work ethic and huge desire to do well," Camas girls cross-country head coach Laurie Porter said of Ashcroft.

Washougal's Gabriel Dinnel powers through the mud during a recent meet in Boise, Idaho. Dinnel finished the Nike Cross Country Invitational in 18th place, in a race that featured hundreds of the top cross-country runners in the western United States. (Contributed photo courtesy of Washougal High School)

Is it something in the water? That’s the question many non-Clark County cross-country coaches may be wondering after a recent coaches’ poll placed the Camas and Washougal boys’ cross-country teams in the No. 1 positions for their respective 4A and 2A divisions.

But Camas head coach Laurie Porter and Washougal head coach Terry Howard both say water has nothing to do with their runners’ success, other than keeping the boys hydrated.

“I think Washougal and Camas have turned into a bit of a running mecca, and I feel like we have a crop of very talented people to work with,” Porter said.

“There’s a lot of excitement in our program right now, and our kids’ success comes down to hard work and talent,” Howard added.

This year’s Camas High Papermakers team includes senior Daniel Maton, who finished second at the state cross-country championships last season and won the state track-and-field championship in both the 800- and 1,600-meter events last spring. Fellow seniors Jackson Lyne and Spencer Twyman have also lent leadership skills to the experienced Camas team.

Papermakers overcome sickness to beat Union

The Camas boys cross-country team has proven to be deep this season. At a recent league meet against Union High on Sept. 25, at Round Lake in Camas. some of the team’s top runners, including Maton, were out sick with a cold, and even coach Porter was fighting a scratchy throat.

“If we had our full crew, I wouldn’t be sitting here sweating today,” Porter said. “But they (Union) could beat us today.”

But, in the end, runners Daniel Jackson, Luc Utheza and Spencer Twyman picked up the slack and cruised to victory around the hilly Camas course the Papermakers call home.

Jackson was fighting a cold, but decided to run anyway in preparation for the big Nike cross-country invitational. which was coming up a few days after the league meet against Union. It turned out Porter had no reason to worry as Jackson, Utheza and Twyman treated the meet against Union like a training run — crossing the finish line together in first place and leaving the top Union runners far behind.

“It felt really bad, but we all finished with the same time,” Jackson said of himself and his two teammates. “I just followed the coaches, and didn’t push too hard. I’d rather be rested for the big race on Saturday.”

Junior Luc Utheza has made a big improvement from last season when he was No. 7 on the team. He’s now a top-four runner for the Papermakers, and attributes his success to his recent decision to take training more seriously.

“Last year, when I didn’t want to run, I wouldn’t,” Utheza said. “But, over the summer, I started becoming consistent in my training, and that’s what has got me here.”

Jackson had no idea his team was ranked No. 1 in the current coaches’ poll, but really didn’t want to talk about it.

“I didn’t know we were ranked that high, but I don’t want our team to focus on that,” he said. “We need to focus on what we need to do each day.”

Panthers attribute success to middle school program

The Washougal High boys cross-country team, led by seniors Gabriel Dinnel, Troy Prince-Butterfield and Coy Chaston, has been tearing up the 2A Greater St. Helens League. Coach Terry Howard said one key to the team’s success is what happened six years ago, when the current seniors on the varsity team were in seventh grade.

“That’s when we started our middle school cross-country program, and it has turned a good varsity program into a great one,” Howard said.

Washougal started its middle school program after witnessing the Papermakers’ success after Camas schools did the same thing.

The girls teams for both schools are also dominating their respective leagues. Camas is led by Halle Jenkins and Aspen Ashcroft, who go back and forth between No. 1 and No. 2 on the team.

“Aspen has really stepped it up because she was an alternate last year and now she’s one of our top runners,” Porter said.

The Panther girls are led by senior Amelia Pullen, one of the best cross-country runners in the state of Washington.

It’s a rare occasion when the 2A Panthers and 4A Papermakers get to compete against each other, but it happened Sept. 29, when both teams were invited to the Nike Cross Country Invitational at Portland Meadows.

The local runners were among hundreds of the best cross-country teams on the West Coast, and both teams proved just how much they deserved to be there. The Papermakers boys team finished in second place, just behind Washington powerhouse Tahoma, while the Panther boys finished the prestigious event in 12th place.

“Washougal was probably the smallest school in the 5,000-meter championship race. Most schools were 3A and 4A, and the schools from Oregon, Nevada and California were all bigger,” Howard said.

In the boys’ races, Camas runner Maton finished the race in 13th place, while Lyne crossed the finish line in 17th position. Right next to Lyne, in the 18th spot, was the Panthers’ Gabriel Dinnel.

On the girls’ side, the Panthers’ Pullen finished in 13th place, while the Papermakers’ Ashcroft crossed the line in 16th position and Jenkins finished at No. 21.