Trojans finish 14th in CIF State Division I cross country finals

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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Running without one of their top runners, the Oak Ridge girls still placed a respectable 14th in the CIF state cross country championships held Saturday in Woodward Park in Fresno.

With Maddy Denner sidelined with an ankle injury, the Trojans still managed to place higher than any other team from the Sac-Joaquin Section, which truly shows how well they ran. Oak Ridge scored 361 points and finished seven points in front of Davis and 23 in front of Woodcreek.

Elena Denner led the way for the Trojans, as she placed third overall; finishing the 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 27.6 seconds. Despite battling a nagging calf injury, Denner’s time was only nine seconds off her personal-best.

“Elena was in position to win the individual state title with a mile to go, but two girls from Buchanan were able to pull away over the last 400 meters,” Oak Ridge coach Bob Wright said. “She still qualified for the Nike Cross Country National meet next weekend.”

Freshman Abby Fletcher turned in an outstanding performance, as she placed 40th in 18:50.2.

“Abby improved her time from the Clovis meet in October by 35 seconds,” Wright said. “Her time is the fifth fastest ever run by an Oak Ridge freshman on that course. No other freshman from our section ran faster that day, and there were only three other freshman from across the state to finish in front of her.”

Running in her third state meet, senior Haley Dean also had a great day, as she placed 61st with her seasonal-best time of 19:05.1.

“It was a great way for Haley to end her cross country career,” Wright said. “To reach the state meet in this sport once is quite an accomplishment, as it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Athletes like Haley who qualify more often than that are in very special company.”

Oak Ridge’s final three runners included freshman Alexia Enriquez (157th, 20:36.5), sophomore Abby Gladwell (192nd, 23:11.0) and Ayden Subjeck (193rd, 23:16.2).

“Lexi ran a personal-best time to finish the season and had a very good time for a first-time runner at the state meet,” Wright said. “Abby was our final scorer and allowed us to finish in front of Davis and Woodcreek. Ayden turned in a 21-second improvement from Clovis to establish a lifetime best over 5,000 meters.”

Wright was proud of the team’s performance, especially with running without one of the team’s top runners.

“As with most championship competitions, coaches of all sports and all levels will say one of the most challenging things to do is get everyone to the line in top shape and free of injury on the day of the competition,” Wright said. “This challenge certainly was the case with our girls’ team. Despite coming off a great win at our section meet, a last-minute decision was made to keep Maddy Denner out of the race, as her foot injury had not healed well enough to run. Despite being down a runner, the remaining six girls gave the race everything they had and placed 14th overall in the state.”

For Denner, her sister Elena and Dean, it was their last cross country race at Oak Ridge. For the underclassmen, more good things are expected from them in the future.

“We will miss the leadership our three senior girls have provided,” Wright said. “They leave behind a legacy of examples and lessons in work ethic, perseverance, and integrity they can all be proud of. We have a very talented group of underclassmen ready to carry on the tradition of the class of 2018, and as coaches we're very excited to be a part of it. Our coaching staff could not have been happier for the girls and their performance. All came away with a unique experience they won't forget for the rest of their lives.”