EUGENE — Halfway through Saturday's race Wilder Schaaf was right where he wanted to be, running with the lead pack. About a mile later, Crater's Josh Elliott started to pull away.
But in a surprising twist, Schaaf didn't give chase. A week after winning a showdown with Elliott in the Southern Sky Conference district meet, the Grizzlies' cross country phenom, who entered the state meet with the top 5A time in Oregon, held back and wound up finishing sixth in 16 minutes, 28 seconds.
That still ranked as the best finish for an Ashland runner and helped the Grizzlies place second to Crater in the team standings — a somewhat remarkable feat considering that Schaaf battled illness all week and missed three days of school. But minutes after the race ended Schaaf's frustration was evident.
"It was where I wanted to be, but I just didn't have it — I could tell," he said, shielding his face from the rain after completing the soggy 5,000-meter course at Lane Community College. "But I'm kind of kicking myself right now. I should have pushed a little more. I'm not used to having to push, that's the thing. It was probably because I was sick, but I just didn't have it."
Elliott ended up capturing the 5A state title, his second in a row, in 16:03, outracing Daniel Winn of Cleveland around the track over the final 300 meters to win by four seconds. The Comets placed three runners in the top six to take the team title handily.
The Grizzlies met their goal of bringing back to Ashland a pair of trophies — second-place for the boys and fourth-place for the girls, who saw senior Camelia Mayfield get off to a fast start and make a late pass to finish 10th in 19:48.
Summit won the girls team title, with Megan Fristoe finishing first in 18:52.
Mayfield was ecstatic with her place, which clinched a spot in the Oregon vs. Washington BorderClash meet, an honor that goes to the top 12 individual placers of each race. She was the only Grizz girl to accomplish that feat after sophomore Mia ODougherty took 19th in 20:21.
"I am so excited," Mayfield said. "My goal the whole season has been BorderClash. That's all that's been on my mind. On the home stretch I thought I was in 12th and I saw that girl in front of me and I was like, 'I need to get her.'"
She did, but with a BorderClash spot all but locked up that final push instead clinched a top-10 finish, something Mayfield did not expect.
"When I finished I was so surprised," Mayfield said. "I was like, 'Top 10, I get one of those emergency blankets!' I couldn't think of a better way to end the season."
The same could probably be said of Ashland senior Paul Schwarzer, who also met his goal of earning a BorderClash berth by finishing seventh in the boys race in 16:33.
"I'm really excited," Schwarzer said. "I didn't run a PR, but it was windy."
Schaaf and Schwarzer led a Grizzly team that placed five runners in the top 42, including Colin Haug in 19th, Cord Walsh in 36th and Noah Kass in 42nd.
The Ashland girls placed three Grizzlies in the top 20, with Marshall Miller finishing just behind O'Dougherty in 20:22.
O'Dougherty was hoping for a BorderClash trip of her own, but fell behind the two lead packs about halfway through the race and couldn't recover.
"Overall, I felt fast in the beginning because I was following (Mayfield), which I always do," O'Dougherty said. "Then she starts to pull away and usually I can catch her again but I just lost her because she's just that tough."