PORTLAND — As if the bitter cold and unfamiliar course didn’t provide enough of a challenge for the Davis High girls cross country team on Saturday at the Nike Cross Nationals, there was the little matter of the competition — 21 of the best squads from around the country.
Undaunted, sophomore Fiona O’Keeffe took fourth individually — her time of 17:31.1 on the 5,000 meter-course was tops among sophomores at the national event — and the Blue Devils captured 12th place overall.
Competing at Portland Meadows, the runners braved freezing temperatures — a record-low for Portland, Ore., at one point — a course that featured hay bales to hop over and one section of up and down hills that DHS coach Bill Gregg said would be more at home on a BMX bike park and had to contend with a very crowded field.
Still, Devil freshman Sofia Castiglioni came home in 18:18.6 to take 44th, Guila McIsaac was 102nd (in 19:05), senior Sophie Meads crossed in 126th (19:23.2) and Maggie McManis finished 168th in 20:02.8. Jeanne-Marie McPherson (20:42) and Pooja Tripathi (20:44.8) rounded out the Davis seven, taking 188th and 189th.
“Sofia ran a very fine race,” Gregg told The Enterprise. “(She) said it was so cold she couldn’t tell if she was running too hard early in the race.
“The field was full of top-notch individual runners who weren’t on scoring teams, so she scored only 16 points, giving Davis just 17 point from its first two runners.”
The Blue Devils’ total of 282 put them in 12th, but was just six points behind eighth-place Temecula. Wayzata (Minnesota) took first at 108.
“(We got) totally solid scoring efforts from Giulia McIsaac, Sophie Meads and Maggie McManis … on a different day DHS could have been in the top 10,” Gregg said. “Also fine efforts from Jeanne-Marie and Pooja. I’m very, very proud of the team.”
O’Keeffe, the CIF state champion who was racing at a national meet for the second straight season, broke away from the field early with a group of seven elite runners. After that, the top three — including winner Alexa Efraimson, running as an individual from Camas in Washington — boldly moved away and at that point, O’Keeffe settled into seventh.
However, through the rest of the 2.5-lap race, O’Keeffe slowly and methodically passed the three runners ahead of her to cross the finish line in fourth.
Notes: The Blue Devils finished second at the CIF state meet — a program best — and were competing at a national event for the first time ever. … The temperature at the Portland airport the morning of the race was 19 degrees, breaking a record. By race time it was 23 degrees with a 10-15 mile per hour wind that made it feel like 13 degrees, according to Gregg. The Davis runners wore multiple layers during the race. … The 198 competitors made for a crowded field and it remained that way through the finish line, which saw 10 to 15 runners crossing every 10 seconds.