We’ll let you in on a little secret.
There are two good cross country teams at Camas High School.
Sure, you may have heard of the Camas girls, winners of consecutive state team titles, top-ranked this season with a defending individual state champion who is also nationally ranked.
While the Camas girls were winning state titles last year, the Papermaker boys placed ninth in the Class 4A division at the state cross country meet.
And despite losing their top three runners to graduation, the Papermaker boys have loftier goals for 2013.
“I’m really pumped about our boys team,” first-year coach Laurie Porter said. “I look for them to do better at state than last year, move up a few spots.”
Fueling Porter’s optimism is her No. 1 runner, senior Riley Hein.
Hein opened the season on Sept. 13 with a third-place finish at the Pier Park Invitational in Portland. He followed that up with another third-place showing in the Division 1 race at the Nike Pre-Nationals at Portland Meadows on Saturday.
“When we were getting ready for this race, I was thinking about improving my best time (of 16:01, set at Pier Park),” Hein said after his race Saturday. “But once I saw the forecast, my focus changed to just running a good race.”
Hein chased the lead pack early Saturday before surging past fellow 4A Greater St. Helens League rival Kaden Harbertson of Skyview to finish third in 17:08 through wet, windy and muddy conditions.
Hein was happy with his race, adding it was a good setting to get himself and his teammates ready for bigger meets ahead.
“State is in November, and this is about as November as it gets in September,” Hein said. “That’s what we talked about in our team huddle at the start.”
With so many seniors leading the team last year, Hein said the Papermakers are looking for younger runners to step up and fill the void.
The Papermakers are led by Hein and his brother Zach, both seniors. The rest of the varsity seven is filled out by juniors Jackson Cutler, Taryk Boyd and Daniel Osterhage, freshman Nicholas Carter and sophomore Dustin Zimmerly.
“I think we’re in the works right now, but we’ve made a lot of progression,” Riley Hein said. “I think when November rolls around, we’ll be ready.”
If the Papermakers want to compete for the 4A GSHL title, they’ll need to be ready earlier, given talented and deep squads at Union and Skyview.
It’s quiet possible that all three teams could advance to state.
“We’re trying to make an effort to place at state, hopefully in the top 3,” Riley Hein said.
Porter says Shane Geiger’s school record of 16:18, when he placed third at the 2007 3A state meet, is within Hein’s range.
“I think Riley has a good shot a possibly getting the (Camas) record at state,” she said. “If everything goes as planned, I think he’s got a real shot at that.”
Just don’t tell anybody.
Boys cross country outlook
RUNNERS TO WATCH
Riley Hein, sr., Camas; Kaden Harbertson, jr., Skyview; Austin Blankenship, jr., Columbia River; Said Guernali, jr., Union; James Breen, sr., Heritage; Thomas Normandeau, sr., Washougal; Zach Hein, sr., Camas; Kyle DeGraaff, sr., La Center; Jordon Bigler, sr., La Center.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
TOP THREE IN 4A GSHL: They haven’t met head-to-head-to-head yet, but if Saturday’s Nike Pre-Nationals results are any indication, there appears to be an exciting battle for top honors in the 4A GSHL between Camas’ Riley Hein, Union’s Said Guernali and Skyview’s Kaden Harbertson. Guernali ran 17:08.33 in the Danner Championship race, while Hein ran 17:08.50 and Harbertson ran 17:10.25 in the Division 1 race.
TOP THREE IN 4A GSHL, PART II: And those three teams — Camas, Union and Skyview — figure to battle for top team honors as well. Union edged Skyview by a point in the first league dual meet last week. Camas and Skyview meet on Oct. 8, and Union and Camas race on Oct. 15.
RIVER IN 3A: Columbia River, led by junior Austin Blankenship, is the early favorite in the 3A Greater St. Helens League. We’ll get a better idea of that after Tuesday when River runs at Kelso.
PANTHER PACESETTER: Senior Thomas Normandeau, who made the transition from soccer to cross country last season, is a top contender in the 2A GSHL. And the Panthers are looking for an added boost from sophomore Bailey Duncan.
RUN WILD IN LA CENTER: Bigler and DeGraaff top a senior-led crew at La Center, which was ranked No. 2 in last week’s state coaches rankings at Class 1A. The key for the Wildcats will be closing the current one-minute gap between their No. 4 and 5 runners.