Girls cross country preview: Budding rivalry between freshmen

Freshman cross country runners Fuller, Efraimson serve notice at Run-a-Ree

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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CAMAS — Seeing as how they are in the same grade, ran for the same club team last year, and have enjoyed one another’s company at sleepovers, one might expect Union freshman Alexis Fuller and Camas freshman Alexa Efraimson to be close.

But this is ridiculous.

In their opening cross country meet of the season, Fuller edged out Efraimson by a few hundredths of a second at the Hudson’s Bay Run-a-Ree as each recorded a 5,000-meter time of 18 minutes, 44 seconds. The third-place runner’s time was 19:56.

Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase “so close, yet so far away.”

“It’s a rivalry, but it’s not like an evil rivalry,” said Efraimson, who was teammates with Fuller when they ran for the Evergreen Storm track club last year. “It’s really good to have someone to challenge me and have someone to challenge.”

Girls cross country preview

ATHLETES TO WATCH

Alexa Efraimson, fr., Camas; Alexis Fuller, fr., Union; Sara Taferre, jr., Skyview; Chantalle Blundell, sr., Hockinson; Nicole Goecke, so., Prairie; Taylor Guenther, sr., Prairie; Lindsay Tompkins, jr., Prairie; Jadyn Gourley, sr., Hockinson; Megan Napier, jr., Camas.

SEASON OUTLOOK

Skyview lost a lot of talent to graduation, but the Storm hope their depth can help them continue a run of district titles. The addition of freshman Fuller makes Union a prime challenger to Skyview. Camas and Prairie are both top-10 programs in the state in Class 3A. Hockinson’s 1-2 punch at the top make the Hawks the favorite in the 2A GSHL, but Washougal hopes to challenge. And La Center returns a solid squad at Class 1A.

Camas cross country coach Mike Hickey envisions the pair challenging each other for years to come. He believes that both are capable of competing on a national level, and deemed Efraimson “as good or better” than any runner he has had in his 13 years of coaching.

Union coach Laurene Stepan, however, was a little more reserved in describing Fuller.

She said that the 14-year-old has yet to prove herself as a cross country runner, that she’s still maturing racing-wise but is clearly blessed with natural talent.

As for her competition with Efraimson?

“Well, I think when they were younger it was kind of, ‘Let’s see what happens’,” Stepan said. “But now there might be some more hurt feelings like, ‘I don’t want to get beat by her ever.’ ”

If that is the case, then perhaps poker is this duo’s true calling — because not once have their faces revealed the slightest hint of animosity toward the other.

In fact, Fuller confessed she grows nervous every time she has to compete against Ephraimson, her anxiety quelled only by the fact that her rival brings out her best.

“She makes me run better,” Fuller said. “I think this year it could be on and off between us” when it comes to who is faster.

Whether it is in track or cross country, on the club or high school level, Fuller has rarely suffered a loss at the hands of Efraimson.

She finished behind her once in the 400 meters and once more in the 800, but Fuller’s victories are often by no more than an eye blink.

Efraimson doesn’t seem too concerned, though. She said that her goals have never involved beating a specific opponent, and that her primary objective is to simply improve as a runner.

Be that as it may, Camas most likely will be moving up to Class 4A next year, a promotion that will pit Fuller and Efraimson against each other several times each season.

So that’s something the two can look ahead to — even if they’re looking behind at their competition.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com