BATTLE GROUND — It may not have been the showcase of a state meet, but Evan Jenkins still enjoyed the experience.
With just four teams, Wednesday’s 4A Greater St. Helens League meet was a modest event for one that capped this spring’s cross country season.
But the upheaval caused by COVID has taught Jenkins to be thankful for what races did happen.
The Camas junior made the most of the 5,000-meter race at Battle Ground High. He won in 16 minutes, 15 seconds, nearly a minute ahead of the second-place finisher.
“Sadly we couldn’t get to state,” Jenkins said. “That was kind of the goal. But we got districts and a lot of duel meets. That’s all we could ask for with COVID. We learned how to get through it, work as a team and we got it done, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
As a sophomore, Jenkins placed fourth in the 4A state meet and helped Camas win its first boys cross country state title.
Wednesday was also significant for Jenkins in that it’s likely his final high school cross country race in Washington. He will spend his senior year in Israel, where his family plans to move while his father is on a two-year work assignment there.
Camas easily won the team title with 18 points. Porter Craig was second in 17:09, Hayden Reich was fourth in 17:26, Connor Hayward was fifth in 17:28 and James Puffer rounded out the Papermakers scorers at sixth in 17:59.
Jenkins and his teammates relished Wednesday’s strong team performance. After all, it’s a reminder the Papermakers are still the reigning 4A state champs.
“A lot of people say cross country is individual, but we come together every day and work as a team,” Jenkins said. “It’s motivational. If you’re having a bad race, you’ve got a teammate who is pushing you.”
Of the seven Camas runners in Wednesday’s race, only Hayward is a senior. Craig, a junior, said the team is already thinking big for this upcoming fall season.
“We have a lot of sophomores who are really decent this year,” Craig said. “So if they keep going and step it up, next year we’re going to have a really good team.”
Buzzell wins girls title
Being thankful for the chance to compete was also shared by girls champion Gracie Buzzell.
The Camas sophomore didn’t mind slogging through the wet course, where at times her foot sunk in ankle-deep.
“This was one of the hardest courses I’ve ran,” Buzzell said. “I’ve never sunk in like that before. But they did a really good job setting up the course. It was the best it could be.”
Buzzell won in 19:34, about 200 yards ahead of Skyview’s Lauren Amato. The same outlook she kept through this uncertain year powered her through the tough course, softened by this spring’s rain.
“We kept a positive attitude knowing that this is the best it’s going to get,” she said. “It shows that nothing goes as planned and you’ve just got to go with it. There are curveballs, but we’ve got to stay positive because the road won’t always be straight.”
Union won the girls team title with 37 points, three ahead of Camas. The Titans were led by freshman Charlotte Wilson in third place and sophomore Jaylyn Lehner in fifth.