Camas High School (CHS) sophomore cross country runner Evan Jenkins knew he had an uphill battle to win the Westside Classic, held Nov. 2 at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington.
It turned out that a big hill helped Jenkins win the race.
“I definitely surprised myself,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. At first I was thinking top five was my goal, but I ended up winning.”
Jenkins knew he was good at running up hills, so he took a quick lead, a strategy that most coaches frown upon.
“It was really risky,” Jenkins said. “This race is known as one where runners start out slow, (but) I didn’t really want to keep it slow, so I figured I might as well go, and if they follow me, they follow me.”
The lead pack of runners on his tail included CHS teammates Sam Geiger, Austin Weese, Luc Utheza and Spencer Twyman. Other runners caught up with Jenkins at about the 2-mile mark, but at that point he used the hills to his advantage and started to pull away.
“He basically just hung on the best he could to the end,” Papermakers assistant boy cross country coach Matt Legrande said. “He’s a talented athlete, so we coaches always expect him to do well.”
Jenkins’ teammates weren’t far behind as the Papermakers finished first in the team standings. Geiger finished fourth, Weese sixth and team captain Utheza finished in 10th place. Utheza was the team’s No. 1 runner prior to injuring his calf during a dual meet with Battle Ground High School on Oct. 1. The Westside Classic was his first race after weeks of recovery.
“It just felt good to be back. (It was) a really good break-in race,” Utheza said
Twyman rounded out CHS’ dominating team performance by finishing 15th out of 162 runners, who qualified with top finishes at district meets around western Washington.
“Evan stepped up for us big time,” Utheza said about Jenkins.
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Standing on the starting line at Chambers Bay, Halle Jenkins, Evan’s older sister, knew she was facing the top runner in the state, Ella Borsheim of Bellarmine Prep High School.
“I know she’s a fast and talented runner, so I just tucked in behind her the whole race,” Jenkins said. “I kind of felt bad because she was doing all the work.”
Jenkins kept up until the last 200 meters, when Borsehim pulled away with a strong kick.
“I’m super happy to finish second,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins lead CHS to a team championship. Camryn Mock finished ninth, followed by Katelyn Flolo in 10th place. Gracie Buzzell took 15th place, Bella Distante finished 22nd, Alyson Robertson was 26th and Ashley McKinstry placed 28th.
Aspen Ashcraft, who finished sixth at last year’s 4A state meet, has been recovering from muscular problems following a knee injury, but said she’s ready for the 4A state meet, which will be held at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco on Saturday, Nov. 9.
“It’s my last year,” Ashcraft said. “I want to do it for the experience, and if I can do anything to help my team, I want to. We are really doing well as a team.”