Ridgeview has new assistant cross country coaches — one with high school head coaching experience, the other only having been involved in the sport only as a runner and parent.

The Ravens head coach sees that as an advantage.

“Together we have a great coaching staff, but creating a running culture at the school takes a long time,” second-year head coach John Swenson said.

Josh Davis, a former Redmond High cross country coach, and Melissa Stolasz, who took up running eight years ago at 39, joined Swenson’s staff. Both are math and science teachers at Ridgeview, which Swenson, who isn’t a teacher, hopes will help grow the program.

“Melissa’s helping me make it fun, which is a really important thing, because a lot of people don’t know that running is fun when they start,” Swenson said.

Stolasz, who has two kids who are middle and high school cross country runners in Sisters, wants to show other kids the value of the sport.

“I saw how my daughter’s entire mindset shifted that first year of cross country,” she said. “Things that seemed hard don’t seem as hard. Her level of toughness and fortitude just skyrocketed.”

While some people might think of cross country as people running alone on a dirt road, Stolasz tries to make the sport fun. That includes introducing games to running.

The runners are excited about the new coaches.

“I think both of them bring a lot to the team,” said Ruby Gates, the Ravens top finisher at the 2018 Intermountain Conference girls meet. I think Davis is very experienced in running and Mrs. Stolasz gets kids excited to run.”

With 12 seniors graduating from the boys and girls teams, Ridgeview needed to recruit some new runners for 2019.

“We’re playing a really long game of building a culture of getting kids who really want to be here for the long haul,” Stolasz said.

She said anyone is welcome on the team.

“You’re not going to be judged on your age or whether you’ve run before,” she said. “There’s a spot for everyone on our team, which is really cool.”

Both Ridgeview’s boys and girls teams finished fourth in the district in 2018. While Swenson said the girls are capable of finishing third, the boys are replacing four of their top five runners.

Gates, who finished 10th at the district meet as a junior, is back, and Swenson is excited about freshman runner Morgan Shaw.

“Ruby and Morgan make a great one-two punch,” Swenson said.

Gates said the girls are capable of qualifying for the state meet as a team.

Shaw narrowly edged out Gates as the Ridgeview girls top finisher at their Sept. 21 meet in The Dalles. The freshman ran a time of 21:59.6 to finish 18th of 59 runners, one spot ahead of Gates, who ran a time of 22:10.67. With 164 points, the Ravens finished eighth of eight teams.

Trevor Middleton, like Gates a captain, said not to underestimate the boys.

“There is new potential,” he said. “There are quite a few good runners.”

The boys also finished eighth of eight teams in The Dalles, with 218 points. Freshman Luke Sperry, with a time of 19:18.39 led the Ravens with a 39th-place finish out of 70 runners.

Part of building the culture has been a three-day, two-night cross country campout at Little Cultus Lake, southwest of Mt. Bachelor.

While Swenson would like to see a youth running club created in Redmond, he is pleased with the improvement in middle school programs.

“The Obsidian Middle School cross country program is getting a lot stronger,” he said. “We’re really talking a lot and working to create a running pipeline into Ridgeview.”

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

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