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Colten Strohmeyer and Molalla cross country dropping times and excelling in tough conference
By Elias Esquivel,
When Molalla’s Colten Strohmeyer was in his freshman season of cross country, things looked a bit different.
For starters, Strohmeyer and hundreds of runners across the state had to compete and run in the standard 5K with masks on. The season concluded in April and not November, and Molalla’s boys and girls teams were severely depleted.
The numbers were dwindling, and there just wasn’t much interest from Molalla students. The teams were not very fast and there were no established leaders due to youth and inexperience.
As Strohmeyer competes in his senior year, the program is almost unrecognizable. Instead of struggling to field teams, participation has doubled from last year with 28 runners. It wasn’t in the best position when he joined, but Strohmeyer’s helped ensure the program will remain relevant long after he’s gone.
“It’s really fun to see these older guys like (Strohmeyer), who’s just been such a stud and just such a great leader for this team for so long, really help build the culture back up,” Molalla head coach Kenny Shoenfeld said.
“I want to help out however I can,” Strohmeyer added. “And if that’s being a leader and helping people out, that’s what it is. If it’s just kind of sitting in the back and pushing myself to show others how they get better, then that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just do whatever the coaches ask of me.”
Strohmeyer and the boys’ team currently sit with the second fastest times in the Tri-Valley Conference based off each athlete’s personal best mark. If the conference championships were today, and each runner ran as fast as their personal best or better, the boys’ team would finish 17 points ahead of last year’s conference and 4A state champions The Dalles.
Sophomore Otto Terry is leading the way, with a time of 17 minutes, 19.8 seconds, which is good enough for the fourth fastest time in the conference. Strohmeyer’s right behind him, clocking in at 17:22.5, while Nick Wood, Evan Wood and John Hayes round out the top five at 17:54.4, 17:56 and 18:10.8, respectively.
Osten Terry and Isaac Marshal fill out the sixth and seventh spots at 18:45.7 and 19:20.5. The boys’ advancement this season has been drastic; Otto and Nick’s marks are over a 45 second improvement upon their previous best times. Evan and Strohmeyer have each shed almost 20 seconds.
The progress is promising, especially in a conference as tough as Molalla’s. If the boys wish to qualify for the state meet in November, it’s likely their times will need to drop even further.
“If your competition is faster, you’re going to be faster,” Shoenfeld said. “So, we welcome it. We think it’s helped us become better because for a few years our guys were district champs two, three years in a row before these 5A schools moved down to our conference. It’s tough, but man, it’s been awesome to try and compete with them and I think our guys are stepping up to the plate.”
Meanwhile, on the girls’ side, sophomores Anika and Annalyse Jenson, who finished first and second at the conference championships last year, are leading the way. The pair seem to still be finding their stride, as neither has improved upon their personal best this season.
Fortunately, the twins are good enough that even their slower times still secure placements of fifth and seventh in conference. The girls compiled best times comfortably positions them third in the conference, just five points behind The Dalles.
However, the biggest shock of the season for the girls is undoubtedly the arrival of Madison Clark.
Clark, who Shoenfeld refers to as “Mad-Dog Madison,” is authoring a splendid breakthrough season in her sophomore year. Her time of 21:32.8 is almost 1:40 faster than her previous personal best and is the eighth fastest in the conference. At last season’s conference championships, Clark finished 19th.
“Her improvement is fantastic,” Anika added. “She’s just gotten really passionate about it and that’s why she’s been dropping time, because of the passion she’s brought to it.”
Clark’s ascent to the upper echelon of runners in the Tri-Valley Conference is welcomed. It provides further depth for Molalla and closes the gap between the Jenson twins and the rest of the team. It’s Clark’s reward for elevating her summer training, and as her confidence has bloomed, Shoenfeld said she’s come out of her shell.
“It’s really nice, honestly,” Clark said. “I ran over the summer and I think that helped a lot, and we also had a camp that I went to. That was really fun.”
“She’s always very shy and I would try to get her to smile and laugh last year, and now she’ll actually kind of sling some crap back at me,” Shoenfeld said. “It’s mostly just confidence with her and the more confidence she gets, the faster she gets. She’s starting to believe in herself and it’s fun to see.”