There is a black bear in Camas who apparently is a big fan of high school cross country.
For the second consecutive week, the Camas cross country teams had to relocate a meet because of a bear sighting Tuesday at Round Lake in Lacamas Park.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced as a coach,” Camas coach Mike Hickey said. “Last week, our guys were warming up on the course when they came upon a black bear that they said was about 3 feet tall to its back.
“They ran back all excited, saying ‘We just saw a bear. What do we do?’ And I said, ‘Uh, move the meet.’ “
The Sept. 25 meet against Evergreen was quickly moved to the Heritage Trail on Lacamas Lake, about a half-mile away.
After the meet, Hickey notified Camas athletic director Josh Gibson, who contacted the parks department.
“They told us there had not been any more sightings at the park, so we thought it was a fluke thing,” Hickey said. “So out we head to Round Lake for our meet (Tuesday) with Skyview.”
This time the meet got underway as the junior varisty girls made their way around the two loops of the 5,000-meter course at Round Lake.
“The girls started into their second lap when all of a sudden, here they come running back all scared,” Skyview boys coach Chris Erdman said.
“I don’t know if it was a hiker or a parent volunteer, but someone had spotted a bear and told the girls to head back. So needless to say, there was a lot of drama.”
Again, the meet was hastily moved to the Heritage Trail, where Camas swept both the varsity boys and girls races.
Camas residents have spotted two to three bears in Lacamas Park in the last month, says Sgt. Doug Norcross with the Camas Police Department.
“We usually don’t have bears that people see,” he said.
The park did not close following the Sept. 25 sighting, but police notified the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Much of the 331-acre Lacamas Park is undeveloped.
“I’ve been coaching here for five years, and my good friend Sherrie Geiger coached here for five years before that, and no one has ever heard of something like this,” Hickey said.
Erdman said the whole experience added a little fun to the meet, because no one was hurt or threatened.
“It’s something that the kids will be talking about,” Erdman said. “Anything that helps bring attention to cross country can’t be all bad.”
Columbian reporter Patty Hastings contributed to this report.