OWASSO — However Blake Collins envisioned Owasso’s 2019 cross country season playing out, this scenario probably was not what the Rams coach would have pictured.
Injuries and illness have decimated both boys and girls squads throughout the fall. Prior to last weekend’s Class 6A regional meet at Sand Springs, the top seven varsity runners for the girls team had not competed together since early September.
As for the Owasso boys, who already entered the season inexperienced after graduating a large senior class from last year’s state-runner up squad, they have lost three of their top five runners for the year due to various injuries.
“It has been a very weird year,” Collins said. “It’s been the most random stuff you can imagine.”
Despite the unanticipated obstacles, both squads are where they hoped to be in August — competing in the state meet Saturday at Edmond Santa Fe. And the girls, who retained a portion of the runners from their 2018 second-place finish, enter with a shot at team gold.
Seniors Sierra Williams, Grace Giesler and Cayley Del Monte laced up their shoes at the 2018 state meet, as did sophomore Libby Booth. Steady senior Hannah Reed and freshmen Kennedie Rhein and Sandra Humes will make their first state appearances.
Collins predicted the girls team title could come down to four teams: defending champion Deer Creek, Edmond Santa Fe, last week’s regional champion Jenks and the Rams.
“For the girls, their talent is off the charts,” Collins said. “It’s just if they’re healthy and feeling good. … We don’t know what the other teams are going to do. But control what we can control.”
With so many new faces, the Owasso boys would be a surprise to reach the podium. Nathan Ostberg is the lone senior who will run Saturday. Ostberg and junior Logan Wahnee both ran on last year’s second-place state team. Andrew Henkaline, Ian Conder, Francisco Santos, Gideon Hays and Riley Moneypenny will also run at Edmond.
“Even to their credit, they’ve worked really hard,” Collins said of the boys team. “They’ve worked through it. It might be not be the talent or experience we’ve had in the past, but you see them out there and they’re all bought in. They’re working really hard and running in a pack, doing all the things we’re asking of them.”
In 5A, Collinsville senior Matthew Budnik will take aim at a second consecutive all-state finish. Budnik placed 10th last season.
Budnik and the Cardinals qualified for state with a sixth-place finish at last week’s regional. Sarah Bell was the lone qualifier for the Collinsville girls.
The state races begin with the 6A girls at 10 a.m., followed by the boys at 10:45.
The 5A races are scheduled to start at noon with the girls, followed by the boys race at 12:45 p.m.