Summit’s Max, Ballantyne top local finishers at Oxford Classic

After her race at the Oxford Classic on Friday afternoon, Fiona Max admitted that she is still working on her sprinting form.

The effort seems to be working for the Summit sophomore, who was the top Central Oregon finisher in the girls race in Drake Park, running the 5,000-meter race in 18 minutes, 52.47 seconds to place third overall.

“My sister got the sprinter side of things and has really good form, so I constantly try and model my stride after hers,” Max said, referring to her twin sister Isabel, who finished in 10th place for the Storm. “We actually played soccer for Summit (as freshmen), and then this year we decided that it would correlate best with cross-country skiing and track to run cross-country. We were friends with a lot of the cross-country girls beforehand, and we talked to them, and they convinced us to move over.”

Sunset’s Kelly Makin, the runner-up at the Class 6A state championship race last November, won the race in 18:32.41, and South Eugene’s Madison Elmore finished second in 18:46.78.

“It was amazing to have the Sunset girls out in front pushing a really good pace,” Fiona Max said. “They definitely reminded me to have good form and get out from the start.”

Mountain View’s Kelsey Swenson finished fourth in 19:02.74, and Summit’s Taylor Vandenborn took seventh place.

“In the past, I haven’t run very well at this race, so I just wanted to run my heart out today and see what I could do,” said Swenson, who ran nearly a minute and a half faster Friday than on a similar course at last year’s Oxford Classic.

Summit won the girls team title at the Oxford Classic each year from 2009 to 2016, but on Friday three Eagle (Idaho) runners finished in the top 10 and the Mustangs beat out the Storm, 54 points to 62. Beaverton’s Sunset High School, which took second in the Class 6A state championship in 2016, finished in third place, Mountain View took sixth and Bend finished seventh. Ridgeview finished 11th in the 22-team field, Redmond took 13th and Sisters finished 16th.

Ashland’s Evan Holland took the lead in the boys varsity race almost immediately and held on to win in 16:01.58 despite a late push from Summit’s Jett Ballantyne.

“Usually I do better going slow at the start and then picking it up, but usually that’s not how the races work,” said Ballantyne, who finished second in 16:04.23. “We just had a race against (Holland) in Monmouth, and he beat me by a good amount, so I wanted to stick with him and maybe pass him at the end if I was still with him. I almost got him in the end, but he held on. We were both fighting.”

Ridgeview’s Albert Hesse finished third in 16:30.62 after getting caught in a large pack of runners early in the race.

“I was going to try and maintain a five-minute mile, but it’s definitely harder to try and catch up from the middle of the pack, so I think I have to change my plans a little,” Hesse said.

The Summit boys finished third with 110 points in the team standings, trailing Class 6A South Eugene (61 points) and Ashland (79), which finished third behind Summit at last year’s state championships. Bend was fourth with 144 points, Mountain View finished 10th, Crook County was 13th, Sisters 14th, Redmond 17th, Ridgeview 19th, Madras 20th and La Pine 23rd in the 26-team field. Jordan Pollard of Sisters finished seventh in 16:58.21, edging Jacob Allmaras of North Medford by .04 seconds.

Summit coach Carol McLatchie said that her team and much of the competition on hand Friday is probably not as fine-tuned as they would typically be at this point in the season, given the number of practices and meets canceled in August and September due to smoke from wildfires, but that layoff might aid some runners as they prepare for the league and state championships.

“They won’t be over-raced,” McLatchie joked.

McLatchie said she was impressed by the performance of several varsity newcomers, including freshmen Joseph Sortor and Sam Hatfield, who were the Storm’s fourth- and fifth-place scorers.

“In addition to those two, we have a half-ton of JV boys that came in, the freshmen, and they’re ready to race,” McLatchie said. “It’s awesome. I know we have to talk about the varsity, but it’s a great addition, because we lost a lot of good kids last year.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com