Ethan Hosang capped his high school cross-country career with a dominating performance on his way to winning the 4A state championship held Saturday, April 10 at Marist High School, helping his team to a very close third-place team finish.

The Outlaws girls team also had a banner day, placing second place as a team, just six points behind the Siuslaw Vikings.

The meet took place thanks to a grassroots effort by 4A coaches after the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) opted not to organize any sports championships to conclude the COVID-shortened, six-week “fall” season.

Hosang, a senior, bided his time in the first half of the race after Patrick Clayburn of North Valley made a bold move to the front within the second half of the first mile, and opened up a sizable lead. Undeterred, Hosang chipped away and by midway of the 5,000-meter course, Hosang had closed the margin and taken over the front spot. From there it was all Hosang as he cruised to a 32-second margin of victory in 15:26.7.

Hosang began to sense victory was at hand once he caught and passed Clayburn.

“At the mile mark Dempsey told me to pick it up and I knew I had made a little gap and then when Nordell told me with 800 to go to enjoy the track and soak it all in, it was at that point I knew I had the win,” he said.

When asked what it meant to be the state champion during the ongoing pandemic, Hosang said, “Oh, man, it means a lot just to be able to have had a state meet and I am grateful for all the coaches and other people that helped make it happen.”

The Outlaws nearly had a 1-2 finish.

Will Thorsett, also a senior and third at last year’s state meet, hit the track with 300 meters to go in fourth place, but put on a furious kick and crossed the finish in a virtual dead heat with Clayburn in a battle for second place. Officials ultimately determined Thorsett placed third with less than a 10th of second separating the two runners. Officially he was timed in 15:58.9 to Clayburn’s 15:58.8.

“Will’s finish was the most dramatic moment of the day,” said Nordell. “He’s such a competitor.”

Another senior, Sam May concluded his cross-country career with his finest performance ever as he finished 11th in 16:33.9. His time marked a personal best by over 45 seconds.

“Sam came through big-time for us,” said Nordell.

Sophomore Cole Jervis set a lifetime best of 17:59 to finish in 37th place with junior Max Palanuk on his heels two places later in 18:07.

Juniors Kaleb Briggs (18:33) and Erik Ryan (19:00) both ran lifetime best in placing 47th and 55th, respectively.

Sisters finished in third place as a team in one of the closest team races in recent years. Siuslaw placed first with 70 points, followed by Philomath with 77 and Sisters with 81.

“It was anybody’s race for the top four teams for the state title once the gun went off,” said head coach Josh Nordell after the meet. “Our boys could not have run better and I think we surprised some teams today, especially given that we did not have John Peckham or Hayden Roth running.”

Peckham, last year’s state champion who led the team to a second placed team trophy, missed the season due to an injury incurred during winter training. Roth, the number-four runner on the team all season missed the meet due to illness.

“These guys pulled together when it mattered and showed what defines a true team,” said Nordell.

In the girls race sophomore Ella Thorsett squared off against Anika Thompson of Junction City in a rematch of last year’s race for the individual title, captured then by Thorsett.

Thompson, who also finished as the runner-up at state in 2018, was not to be denied in her final high school cross-country season. The University of Oregon-bound runner, well known for starting fast, set off at a relatively moderate pace, which surprised Thorsett.

“I thought, ‘Well this doesn’t feel too bad,’ but then Anika threw in an extended surge after the mile mark and I could never get even with her again,” she said.

Thompson pulled away for a 25-second margin of victory with a time of 17:57.3.

Thorsett crossed the line in 18:22 in second place to lead the girls team to a surprise runner-up trophy.

“It wasn’t the result I wanted,” said Thorsett, “but it was still an enjoyable day as our team did awesome getting second place. None of us went into the meet with expectations since so many of the team had never run cross-country before, so when we saw the results it was pretty crazy.”

Pearl Gregg, a senior, missed the podium by just one place, finishing 11th in a personal-best time of 20:17.4. Her next four teammates packed together well as Brooklyn Liddell (21:07) placed 22nd, Mary Root (21:45) 32nd, Ella Bartlett (21:58) 37th, and Sasha Stolasz (22;07) 39th, helping the Outlaws come within a breath of the state title.

Dulce Dunham, running in her first varsity race, placed 74th in 26:12.

Siuslaw prevailed with 81 points to 87 for the Outlaws and 89 for third place Baker. LaGrande placed fourth with 117 points.

“It’s hard to put into words how the girls did,” said Nordell. “It was just amazing, that’s the simplest way to put it.”

Nordell felt relieved and proud after a challenging season.

“This mini-season made it very tough to get ready for competition in such a short amount of time, so for both teams to come home with state trophies shows just how gutsy and resilient these kids are.”