While Susan Ejore may be more known for her success in middle distance races on the track, she has no problem going longer distances in cross country. Ejore now has consecutive first place finishes to start the season after placing first for the women at the 2018 Dellinger Invitational at the Springfield Country Club in 19 minutes, 32 seconds.
“Susan surprised me pretty much everyday,” said Helen Helen Lehman-Winters, who’s in her first season as Oregon’s women’s distance coach. “She didn’t really run a full cross-country season last year, and obviously was very effective on the track. But she demonstrated over the last two weeks the aerobically, she is also very strong.”
In the team’s first race since training week at altitude at Sunriver, both the men and women showed strong performances despite not having truly elite competition. The Oregon women put on a dominant display, finished first through seventh, all within forty seconds of each other. The men came in second behind University of Portland. The full results for both races are available here.
From the starting gun, the women set the tone for the rest of the six kilometer race. The lead group was comprised of only Ducks, with Ejore, Jessica Hull, Weronia Pyzik and Carmela Baez. They quickly distanced themselves from their main competition, Nevada and UC Davis.
The men’s race was not as one-sided. The Oregon men ran near the front of the pack together for the first 4 kilometers , led by Blake Haney and James West. But when Portland’s Reuben Kiprono, who won the race in 24:39, started to gap the rest of the competition, it was Mestler and Teare who pulled away towards the front. Kiprono said he comfortable making a big move so early in the race.
“I was feeling good, despite being out for week,” Kiprono said. “So I just had 1-2 weeks of training, and I was worried I might not do well.”
Cooper Teare, last season’s conference freshman of the year, ran unattached and finished second overall in 24:54. Jackson Mestler was the first finisher for the Ducks, and third overall. This was Mestler’s second consecutive strong result. The junior from Eugene finished second at the XC Preview on September 6. Teare thinks Mestler could have a critical impact on the postseason races.
“Oh man, he’s definitely going to be a guy to watch out for,” Teare said. “He had two of the best weeks from training I’ve seen him run. He’s dropped me in a couple workouts. He’s just having one of those seasons where he’s stepping up when someone has to.”
New men’s head coach Ben Thomas admitted there were some tired legs after a tough training week, but was pleased with the overall performance.
“They stuck to the plan pretty well. We would have liked to hold the pack all the way through the finish, the gap wasn’t too big at the end,” Thomas said. “But I think we’re a little tired coming off a pretty good Wednesday.”
The Ducks will have three competition-free weeks before flying to Madison, Wisconsin for the Pre-Nationals invitational.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august