Ridgeview’s top performance in its initial cross-country meet of 2018 came from a runner with stitches in his foot.

Senior Kian Bangerter finished eighth in the 5,000 meter Jere Breese Memorial Ranch Stampede in Prineville with a time of 19 minutes, 54 seconds. His time was second best among Class 5A runners in the seven-team event.

Bangerter stepped on a needle nine days before the race, where runners race through a wet field and cross a creek. He said doctors had to cut the needle out and stitch it up.

“It hurt a little, especially on the gravel,” Bangerter said. “But it was still a fun race.”

Bangerter represents Ridgeview’s best shot to reach the state meet, said John Swenson, who is coaching cross country this season after working with many of the same distance runners on the Ravens track team the last two years.

Swenson previously coached cross country at Skyview Middle School in Bend. He has been a runner for 25 years, competing in more than 400 races. He has also worked extensively with his own kids, including Mountain View senior Kelsey Swenson, who won the girls race at the Breese meet.

The good news for Ridgeview is the top two teams in both boys and girls competition in their first meet were from Bend and have moved up to Class 6A. But the Ravens will still face tough competition at their Oct. 24 Intermountain District Championships, also in Prineville.

Though the Ridgeview boys finished fifth of seven teams and the girls were last of the four teams at the Breese meet, Swenson said he is looking for a longer-term approach to building the program.

“Hopefully, we’ll get at least one or two individuals to state, and then, next year, I’d like to get our boys and girls teams to qualify for state,” he said. “One step at a time, but it really will depend on building that distance-running tradition at the school.”

And that could just be the beginning.

“My goal is to create a distance-running tradition at Ridgeview, and that’s gonna take time” Swenson said. “It’s gonna take two or three years to really do that. A lot of Bend schools have been doing that for years. Kids come to high school and say, ‘I want to run cross country.’ I want to see that tradition at Ridgeview.”

Part of that plan is reaching out to middle schools. Swenson said Ridgeview plans to have some joint practices with Obsidian runners this season.

The team also spent more time working together during the summer. They started training together in early July and 10 team members took part in a cross-country camp at Little Cultus Lake, southwest of Mt. Bachelor, where they ran up and down a mountain.

“We’ve been working a lot harder, we’ve been going a lot more miles,” Bangerter said. “We’ve been working out a lot more as a team.”

The boys team is dominated by upperclassmen, with Ridgeview’s top four finishers at Breese — Bangerter, Nathan Turpen, Jared Hearing and Micah Capson — all seniors. But they are replacing the now graduated Albert Hesse, a state qualifier the last three years who finished second at state in track in the 1,500 meters as a senior. Hesse reached state in cross country three times in Oregon and as a freshman in Idaho.

On the girls side, the Ravens are also without their top district finisher from 2017. After finishing 10th at the Intermountain Conference meet, Averi Hartford is concentrating on soccer this fall.

Junior Ruby Gates, with a time of 26:00, led the Ravens at the first meet, and was followed by seniors Elise Brown, Destiny Perkins and Willow Cook.

Gate praised the new coaches, including assistant coach Riva Johnson.

“I’ve done track with Swenson, but this sport is really their forte,” Gates said. “I really like Riva because she’s a very good coach for girls.”

The team had 26 members as of Aug. 28, but Swenson hoped to grow that after freshmen reported to school this week.

“A lot of freshmen aren’t in the high school mindset yet,” he said. “Once they show up in the hallways, we can recruit them.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com