The Washougal High School cross country team won a major race two weeks before the start of its 2021 season.
“Shougalicious,” a group of 12 Washougal High runners, took first place at the 2021 Portland to Coast Challenge Relay Run, held Aug. 28-29 in Oregon.
“They were really happy,” Panthers coach Tracey Stinchfield said. “They had a good time. It was really fun when those results came in. I was very excited, and I actually was a little bit surprised because I know these kinds of events can have different challenges. It’s a great way for them to start off the season, coming in feeling so powerful and excited.”
The Portland to Coast Challenge, part of the Providence Hood and Portland to Coast Relay, the largest running and walking relay race in the world, tasks 12-member teams to run 130 miles from Portland to the Oregon coast.
“Each (member of the relay team) runs somewhere between six and 12 miles, divided into two different runs,” Stinchfield said. “They have a baton that they pass from runner to runner, and they have to get it from Portland to Seaside. One runner starts and everybody else jumps in a van and they drive out to the next spot and wait there and drop off the next runner and pick up the runner who just finished and drive out to the next stop. They’re never waiting for very long, and that way they can cheer on the runner along the way a little bit.”
“Shougalicious,” consisting of six boys and six girls, began the race in Portland at 5 p.m. Aug. 28, and finished the next morning, on Aug. 29, in Seaside on the Oregon coast, crossing the finish line in 15 hours, 51 minutes and 18.3 seconds.
“They ran straight through the night and never stopped, they were running so hard,” Stinchfield said. “For a lot of them, it’s the first time they got to run in the middle of the night. Some of the girls said it was a little bit scary, but it made them run a little bit faster. For most of the kids, the toughest challenge was figuring out how to keep track of their nutrition, make sure they were eating well before and in between the runs, and running when they were tired. But the adrenaline picked up for most of them once they got going.”
Washougal High runners have competed in the event for “many years, at least 10,” according to Stinchfield. They’re not officially affiliated with the school, instead sponsored by Washougal’s Discovery Dental, which is owned and operated by Tom Stinchfield and Dave Stinchfield, Tracey Stinchfield’s husband and brother-in-law.
“(The Portland to Coast Challenge has) become kind of a tradition, and the kids love it,” Tracey Stinchfield said. “They definitely enjoy the time spent cheering each other on from the van and that sense of team. It’s unique for them to not all be running a race at the same time. They’re running one at a time, so they get to cheer each other on, which is very different.”
The victory was, in their minds, an added — but not completely unexpected — bonus, she added.
“They were optimistic that they could win,” Tracey Stinchfield said. “Washougal generally does well and places in the top five, but they had never won before, so these kids said, ‘We’re going to win it this time,’ and they were right on.”