Oak Ridge girls claim second cross country title

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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A yam party?

That’s what Oak Ridge cross country coach Bob Wright called what his girls team had Thursday night to prepare for the Sac-Joaquin Section championship race on Friday.

Senior sisters Maddy and Elena Denner love sweet potatoes and yams, so they invited the team over for dinner and some team bonding.

Some 16 hours later, the Trojans pulled a mild upset and won the Division I section title, their second in school history following one in 2009.

“We love sweet potatoes and yams and invited the team over to try them and it was fun,” Maddy Denner said. “I don’t know if it helped us today, but we all felt it was a good team builder.”

Said fellow senior Haley Dean, “Maddy and Elena are obsessed with sweet potatoes. They invited us over for dinner and we also made our hair ribbons. Maybe it helped us. We’re all comfortable around each other. We know we can depend on each other.”

The Trojans had to overcome some adversity this season with injuries. Young runners had to step up and get the job done and they did. The team is led by its three seniors: Maddy and Elena Denner and Dean. Maddy missed the sub-section meet last week with an ankle injury and ran injured Friday. Elena was also at less than 100 percent, while Dean missed the league meet two weeks ago because of an illness.

Another runner, Skylar Hayward, is already out for the season injured. That left it up for some young newcomers to step up. Sophomore Abby Gladwell and freshmen Abby Fletcher, Alexia Enriques and Ayden Subjeck did just that.

“We have a motto and that’s ‘next runner up,’” Wright said. “This was just a fantastic team effort; the best we’ve had in a long time. It takes a unique bunch to gel perfectly the way they did. The young girls filled in nicely.”

Elena Denner ran second at the section meet, finishing the 17 minutes, 57 seconds, while her sister, Maddy placed fourth in 18:53. Fletcher ran 13th in 19:46, while Dean was 15th in 20:13. Gladwell rounded out the scoring by placing 27th in 20:48. Enriques finished in 21:38, while Subjeck’s time was 24:28.

Oak Ridge scored 56 points to win the meet, eight points in front of Davis.

“We knew we could finish anywhere from first to fourth, and I honestly didn’t expect us to win,” Dean said. “I was thinking third place. We ran really well. It shows that we can overcome challenges. Maddy was injured, but we all pulled together.”

Things didn’t look particularly good early, as the team seemed to start off slow, but that was all part of the plan.

“We went straight to the back, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing on this course,” Wright said.

Said coach John Mansoor, “The goal was to run the second half of the race fast, and that’s what we did.”

Added coach Rob Fairley, “Maddy ran a great second loop.”

Before the race, Maddy wasn’t even sure if she could finish the race.

“I was worried before the race that my ankle would hurt so bad that I wouldn’t be able to finish,” Maddy said. “It hurt early on, but the pain went away as the race went on.”

The section title was a team achievement.

“We have a good group of girls,” Maddy said. “We’re all close, and that plays a big part in our success. We owe it to each other to work hard.”

On the boys’ side, Drew Spencer placed 20th in the Division I varsity boys’ race in 16:54, while Sohan Kanchurla took 40th in 17:20. Aidan Campbell placed 26th in the freshman-sophomore race in 12:27.

Oak Ridge placed first in the freshman boys’ Division I race. Clark Fransham placed fifth in the race in 12:03. Grant Geeting placed 10th in 12:23 and was followed by Evan Kwong (15th, 12:35), James Gezi (16th, 12:35), Tyler Markovsky (17th, 12:42), Forrest Green (44th, 13:46) and Timothy Studebaker (48th, 14:43).