NXN: Female harriers repeat second place finish, Vernau takes 23rd

(From left to right) Sophomores Ruthie Mitchell, Annie Mitchell, Sophie Lodigiani, seniors Abbey Fisk and Sofia Castiglioni, and juniors Olivia O’Keeffe and Sage Taylor hold their second place trophy after narrowly beating rival Great Oak for the spot. (All photos courtesy B. McManis)

By Willa Moffatt,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor-in-Chief–

On Saturday Dec. 3, the Davis High women’s cross country team returned to the Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Ore. for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) to repeat last year’s second place finish, while senior Michael Vernau placed 23rd individually in the men’s race.

The female harriers narrowly edged rival Temecula (Great Oak) by four points for the runner-up spot, despite losing the state title to that team at the CIF State meet on Nov. 26.

Fisk races against a runner from Temecula.
Fisk races against a girl from Temecula.

Despite having experience on this 3.1 mile course, the less-than-ideal conditions slowed all the DHS runner, leaving them surprised at the final results.

“I was expecting 4th or 5th place,” senior and top finisher for Davis Sofia Castiglioni (18:31.1) said. “We were in 12th place at the mile,” she said.

Olivia O’Keeffe (18:57.0), who won the Division I state champion title in a breakout performance one week prior, credits her knowledge of the course help strategize.

“Having previously races the course helped us know for sure where the mile marks were which helps for race strategy, but the course was so much softer this year is almost felt like a different course,” the junior said. O’Keeffe came in second for DHS.

Sophomores Sophie Lodigiani (19:11.0), Annie Mitchell (19:45.7) and Ruthie Mitchell (20.07.3) and senior Abbey Fisk (19.14.8) “wanted to stay together as long as possible,” Lodigiani said, and then “work up the field after the first mile,” Fisk added.

Castiglioni agreed. “It was all about the team [Saturday].”

Junior Sage Taylor (21.05.2) rounded out the score for Davis. The final team score was 181. The team from Manlius took first with an impressive 41 points to win its 10th NXN championship title.

This was the first NXN experience for both Mitchell sisters. “The race was tough and slow, but it was great overall, and I’m super happy with the result. It’s been a blast,” Ruthie said. Annie agreed, adding that “it really was a once in a lifetime experience.”

Vernau runs to a 23rd place finish.
Vernau runs to a 23rd place finish.

Looking to the future, those returning hope to first qualify for NXN 2017, then evaluate what they hope to accomplish.

Vernau, running as an individual, ran to a 23rd place finish in 16.04.3. The muddy course also took him by surprise. “I performed way worse than I was expected to by both myself and others,” he said.
Though Vernau began in 13th place at the first mile, he began to fall back as the pace increased up front. “The strategy was to start in 10-15 and move up after the first mile,” he said.

However, the Stanford-commit is putting this behind him and looking to the future. “Hopefully it’s just a bad race and won’t influence my racing in the future other than motivating me,” he said.

“I’m just looking to be […] faster in general and an all around better athlete in college,” he added.

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