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2A/1A District Cross Country: Ridgefield’s Danica Allen kicks late to win title

Columbia River’s Jacob McManus sets course record

By , Columbian Sports Editor
6 Photos
Ridgefield's Danica Allen runs during the Class 2A/1A District 4 Cross Country Championships on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023 east of Woodland. Allen won the 2A girls race.
Ridgefield's Danica Allen runs during the Class 2A/1A District 4 Cross Country Championships on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023 east of Woodland. Allen won the 2A girls race. (Micah Rice.The Columbian) Photo Gallery

WOODLAND — Until this year, soccer filled Danica Allen’s autumns.

It turns out Allen also has a kick on the cross country course.

The Ridgefield junior won the Class 2A District 4 title with a blazing sprint in the final meters of Thursday’s race at Lewis River Golf Course.

In second place for most of the race, Allen caught Washougal’s Elle Thomas just before the finish line. That effort earned Allen a district championship in her first season of cross country.

In the final portion of Thursday’s 5,000 meter race, a straight trek down a golf course fairway where the finish is long in sight, Allen drew on her track and field skills. She placed sixth in the 1,600 meters at last spring’s state meet.

“When we hit that long finishing stretch, it’s almost like an 800,” Allen said. “I slowly started to pick it up. With all the people here, that motivates you to run as fast as you can.”

Though Allen missed last week’s 2A Greater St. Helens League championships to heal from an ankle injury, she had no reservations about finishing strong.

“We focus a lot at Ridgefield on the fast, faster, fastest in our finishing kick,” she said. “We’ve worked on it all season. I’m really confident in it and a lot of people on my team are too because we work on it so much.”

Allen finished in 19 minutes, 12 seconds for her second-fastest time of the season.

That was one second ahead of Thomas, a senior who finished second at the district meet for the fourth consecutive year.

Allen and third-place Charlize Kellmer led the Spudders to the district team championship. Ridgefield’s 71 points were well ahead of Hockinson’s 125. Washougal earned the last of three team berths to the state meet Nov. 4 in Pasco. The Panthers and Tumwater finished tied with 140 points but Washougal won the tiebreaker because its sixth-fastest runner, Chloe Franco, finished ahead of Tumwater’s sixth runner.

McManus sets course record

As close as the 2A girls finish was, Columbia River’s Jacob McManus made sure no such drama would happen in the 2A boys race.

The junior pulled away over the final mile to win in 15:40. That broke the course record of 15:50 set by Columbia River’s Daniel Barna in 2021.

McManus and teammate Neftali Menendez pulled ahead early in the race. Menendez, a senior, finished second in 16:23.

Pushing each other in practice has benefited both McManus and Menendez.

“I think it helps us stay accountable,” Menendez said. “We can’t slack off in practice because we know the other one is chasing us down. We’re working with each other to push to faster times.”

“When you have someone that’s like you it’s a friendly competition,” McManus added. “It pushes you to run faster than you think you can.”

Columbia River placed four runners in the top 10. Eli Wenger finished ninth just ahead of Kohl Ripplinger as the Rapids won the team title with 52 points, 44 ahead of Ridgefield.

Columbia River is a strong contender for a top-three finish at the state meet. Thursday’s result did nothing to dampen the Rapids’ confidence.

“We know how fast we are right now,” McManus said. “At state, we’re going to go in there, go out hard and see what happens.”

Soto repeats as 1A boys champ

For Sam Soto, repeating as district champion was always the plan.

The Seton Catholic junior didn’t just win his second straight Class 1A boys title, he did so in dominant form.

Soto turned in a blazing final mile to pull away from teammate Cohen Thomas. His winning time of 16:18 was 41 seconds faster than last year’s despite similar conditions.

“I was hoping to push it the whole time and keep it up,” Soto said. “I think I did what I wanted to do.”

Soto has run faster than last year’s district-winning time in every race this season but one.

“I think I’ve grown mentally,” said Soto. “Having the mental strength to push through and aim for the best time I can.”

Thomas finished second in 16:53. Oliver Dortmund placed fourth in 17:07 as the Cougars won the team title with 57 points, eight ahead of La Center.

Leone returns to place third

In her first race of the season, two-time defending state champ Alexis Leone placed third in the 1A girls race.

The Seton Catholic senior had missed the entire season while recovering from an injury.

Leone finished in 18:47. That was 18 seconds behind freshman Haley Schweppe, who took the individual title and led Montesano to the team championship.

Avery Garrison placed seventh and Charlotte Hayward 13th as the Cougars placed second with 63 points, 15 behind Montesano.