Freshman Ella Bartlett ran her first high-school race near Tillamook. photo by Craig May
Freshman Ella Bartlett ran her first high-school race near Tillamook. photo by Craig May
The high school sports world is still largely shut down due to COVID-19, but Pat Zweifel, cross-country coach at Tillamook High School and owner of a large farm, found a way to offer a meet to a group of runners looking to compete as OSAA’s “fall” season is postponed until February.

Zweifel’s family owns the Hydrangea Ranch outside of Tillamook where, amidst the rows of flower bushes, Zweifel has carved out a cross-country race course and built facilities to host camps and other running events.

In fact, the Sisters cross-country team used the facility for camps in 2018 and 2019.

Zweifel contacted Sisters head coach Josh Nordell and invited some Sisters kids to run “unattached” in what he dubbed the “Bigfoot Invite.”

Five boys and three Outlaws girls made the trip on Friday, October 23 and ran very well, according to Nordell. It is unclear whether Bigfoot showed up or not, according to Nordell.

“I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the kids raced as though nothing had changed and they proved they were ready to take on anybody,” said Nordell.

Sophomore Ella Thorsett, the reigning 4A champion, cruised undaunted through rain and mud to win the girls race in 18:19. She finished more than a minute ahead of Tillamook’s Sarah Pullen who finished in 19:26. Pullen, a senior, placed sixth at last year’s state meet and third the year before.

Pearl Gregg showed that her summer training paid off as she placed fourth in 20:41. Freshman Ella Bartlett finished her first high-school race in eighth with a time of 22:26.

The Outlaw boys flexed some muscle, taking three of the top four spots as seniors John Peckham (15:32), Will Thorsett (15:41), and Ethan Hosang (16:02) finished 1-2-4.

Additionally, senior Sam May placed seventh (17:03) and sophomore Hayden Roth finished eighth (19:00).

While it is unclear whether other races will be available this fall, Nordell appreciated the opportunity for some of his runners to race.

“These kids work hard even during uncertainty,” he said. “They don’t know what tomorrow will bring with the virus and shutdowns, but they keep on training so they will be ready. That’s real dedication in my book.”