DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gators pass test against West's top runners

The George Fox Cross-Country Classic in Gervais, Ore., annually features some of the top teams and individual runners in the Western U.S.

And on Saturday (Oct. 14), Xavier Prep once again finished among the top teams in the Varsity and JV Gold divisions at the Willamette Mission State Park.

In the varsity race, Xavier scored 103 points to finish second behind Summit, Ore. (73). Since opening in 2001, Summit has been one of Oregon’s top teams, having won 11 girls state titles, including eight in a row.

Xavier’s average time over the 5,000-meter course was 18:49.

Leading the way for the Gators was senior Caroline McClelland, who finished 13th at 18:35.7.

Xavier had six more runners in the race that featured 123 entries.

The Gators and their finishes . . .

Freshman Jamie Stelnik, 15th at 18:37.9, junior Helen Innes, 23rd at 18:52.2, sophomore Mia Olsen, 27th at 18:55.0, senior Kate Straneva, 32nd at 18:59.9, freshman Cami Merickel, 39th at 19:11.4, and freshman Sammy Braun, 67th at 19:56.9.

Xavier had five runners in the top 10 and eight in the top 15 in the JV Gold race and went on to take the team title with 19 points. Camas, Wash., finished second with 51. Xavier’s average time was 19:42.

Junior Karina Hawkins and senior Caroline Liddy separated themselves from the swarm of 227 racers to finish first and second, respectively. Hawkins covered the 5,000 meters in 19:07.5, Liddy 19:33.6.

Other Gators in the top 10 were junior Karina Smith, 5th at 19:50.6, sophomore Kristen Keeble, 6th at 19:57.5 and senior Annika Nielson, 8th at 19:58.2.

Finishing in the top 15 were junior Karli Baker, 11th at 20:21.0, sophomore Grace Valandra, 13th at 20:23.1, and senior Abbie Conrad, 15th at 20:31.2.

Congratulations to the Gators for their outstanding effort !! It was well worth the trip !!

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