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All-Region Boys Cross Country: Jacob McManus, Columbia River

Training plan helped McManus consistently finish under 16 minutes

By , Columbian Sports Editor
3 Photos
All-Region boys cross country runner of the year, Jacob McManus, is pictured at Columbia River High School on Monday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2023.
All-Region boys cross country runner of the year, Jacob McManus, is pictured at Columbia River High School on Monday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2023. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In a sport like cross country, often ran on uneven ground, Jacob McManus has found his balance.

On one side, the Columbia River junior meticulously charts his mileage. He embraces the effort and discipline needed to optimally follow a training plan.

On the other side, McManus doesn’t forget the joy and freedom that drew him to running in the first place.

“My favorite memories are from practice and not races,” McManus said. “Every day after school I get to run with my teammates and friends and just have a good time. The race results sort of come by themselves.”

This season, those race results were mighty impressive. McManus finished second in Class 2A at the state cross country championships, running a personal-best time of 15 minutes, 31.2 seconds on Nov. 4 at Pasco.

That was the best state finish by any runner from Southwest Washington and came nine days after McManus won the District 4 title in runaway fashion.

For his accomplishments, McManus is The Columbian’s All-Region boys cross country runner of the year.

In his sophomore season, McManus gradually improved from an 18-minute finisher to place seventh at districts in a then personal-best of 16:20.

This season saw another big leap. McManus broke 16 minutes for the first time in the season-opening Steve Maas Run-a-Ree, finishing second in 15:53.

McManus consistently finished under 16 minutes in the races that followed. He ran 15:39 to win the Division I Varsity race at Nike Portland XC on Sept. 30 at Oregon City.

The following weekend in Arlington, McManus clocked in at 15:33 to finish 10th in the Elite Division at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational, one of the state’s biggest cross country events.

McManus credited his improvement to diligently following a more-intense training plan. Starting at 25 miles per week during the summer, he increased his mileage by precise percentages with a goal of building fitness while not inviting overuse injuries.

He also paid more attention to nutrition, strength training and sleep.

“I really do enjoy the process,” McManus said.

McManus has also honed his mental approach on race day.

“I’ve been meditating and visualizing before each race,” McManus said. “I ask myself, how do I want to feel? Who am I going to be running with? What’s going to happen during the race? I think mentally preparing that way has really helped me flourish each race.”

McManus credits his teammates for his success. He started the season chasing senior Neftali Menendez, who finished 14th at state and second at districts. Eli Wenger and Kohl Ripplinger also finished in the top 10 at districts, helping the Rapids win that championship before placing fourth at state.

“The biggest part of my success this year is just having that support system,” McManus said. “It’s way easier to do something when you’re not doing it alone. Going out and running with all these people every single day, you know that you’re suffering together.”

McManus eventually want to run in college. He took up the sport in sixth grade after watching a cousin compete at Western Washington University.

He hopes to continue lowering his times during this spring track season and his senior year to follow. In turn, championships and college offers would follow.

But McManus balances those lofty goals with a grounded approach that lets him enjoy each run.

“Hopefully all these things happen,” McManus said. “But I like to tell myself that anything is possible and to just enjoy every run. At the end of the day, I want to have a good time and enjoy myself. If I start taking everything so seriously, I’m going to lose what brought me into running initially.”


Runner of the Year

Jacob McManus, Columbia River

Rest of the team

Cohen Butler, Camas — The sophomore was 4A district champion and third at the bi-district Westside Classic in a personal-best of 15:51.

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Bradley Harris, Union — The junior was 4A district runner up and 22nd at the state meet. Ran under 16 minutes three times, including a PR of 15:36 at the Mook XC Invite at Alderbrook.

Devontae Kephart, Battle Ground — The sophomore was third at the 4A district meet and finished under 17 minutes in all but one race this season.

Neftali Menendez, Columbia River — The senior was 2A district runner up and 14th at the state meet. Won five races this season and had a PR of 15:39.

Sam Soto, Seton Catholic — The junior repeated as 1A district champion. He finished 12th at state and won five races this season with a season-best of 16:06.

Cohen Thomas, Seton Catholic — The senior was 1A district runner up and helped Seton place third at the 1A state meet, the highest finish in program history.