BATTLE GROUND — Camas has become very good in many of its high school sports, and it’s hard to argue against that the best of the best is girls cross country.
The Papermakers continued to enhance that stock Thursday when they easily won their fifth consecutive Greater St. Helens League Class 4A title at Lewisville Park. Led by meet champion Emma Jenkins, Camas ran 1-3-4-6 to easily pull away from runner-up Skyview in the five-team meet.
But it’s not just locally where the Papermakers dominate. As the GSHL champion, Camas heads to the Westside Classic in Tacoma on Oct. 29, where it will attempt to qualify for the Nov. 5 state meet and a chance to win its fifth state championship in six years.
“We’re working really hard to get first and we’re not going to let up now,” said Jenkins, a junior.
The Camas boys joined the girls in the winner’s circle, taking control of the GSHL meet in similar fashion. Yacine Guermali and Daniel Maton ran 1-2 and led the defending champion Papermakers to a one-sided team win.
Guermali won his second consecutive GSHL title — and third straight for his family, as brother Said won in 2014 — as he ran the 5,000-meter course in 15 minutes, 55 seconds, 25 seconds ahead of Maton. Skyview’s Chanse Gilbert took third.
Camas played five runners among the top 10 and scored 28 points, half of runner-up Skyview’s total of 56. Union placed third.
Jenkins, second in the 2015 GSHL meet, ran 5,000 meters in 18 minutes, 39 seconds to beat Skyview’s Ellen Burbank by 26 seconds. Ellie Postma and Halle Jenkins of Camas ran third and fourth. The Papermakers’ Rachel Blair, the 2015 GSHL champion, placed eighth.
Camas placed its five runners among the top eight and scored 22 points, well ahead of second-place Skyview, with 46. Union was third.
Jenkins said she came into Thursday’s race hoping to improve her place by one over a year ago, but as she briefly spoke after the race, it was clear she was far more focused on the team’s performance.
“I was definitely aiming for first this year. Our whole team is extremely motivated, and we’ve all been working hard,” Jenkins said.
Camas returns the bulk of last year’s team that easily won the 4A state championship, and mostly, has looked the part of a state title team. The competition appears stiffer this season, so winning state isn’t quite the foregone conclusion that it was in 2015, when the Papermakers won first place by 70 points.
“It’s going to be a little tougher,” Jenkins said. “I think we have bonded more as a team. We’re all really close. We’re running for each other.”
Guermali also has some big goals coming up, as he ranks among Washington’s fastest distance runners this fall. Running over the same Lewisville Park course as a year ago, Guermali’s time was 30 seconds faster Thursday than his 2015 clocking. The Camas senior has had some strong performances this season, including wins at the Nike Hole In The Wall Invitational in Lakewood and George Fox Invitational earlier in October.
The state meet in two weeks may not be the end of Guermali’s successes, either, as he should figure prominently in regional and perhaps national high school cross country races in November and December.
“State is definitely the focus right now,” Guermali said. “I feel like a good performance at state leads to better things after that.”
Mountain View dominates 3A meet: Mountain View boys ran 1-2-3 and the Thunder’s Savanna Craig took first in girls to highlight local runners in the GSHL Class 3A meet at Kelso.
Mountain View’s Samuel Johnson ran the 5,000-meter course in 15:47.8 seconds to easily claim first place in boys, by 22 seconds over teammate Shun Yamaguchi. The Thunder’s Daniel Grimshaw took third.
Mountain View, which had six runners among the top 13, won the boys title with 26 points, while runner-up Kelso was a distant second with 52 points. Prairie was third.
Craig edged Fort Vancouver’s Emily Phelps to take the girls title. The Mountain View junior covered the 5,000-meter course in 17:19.89, less than seven second ahead of Phelps. Prairie’s Hannah Kneeshaw was third.
Kelso, which didn’t place a runner in the top five, won the team title with 56 points, seven ahead of runner-up Prairie. Mountain View was third.
The top teams and individuals advance to the state-qualifying bi-district meet, the Westside Classic, on Oct. 31. This year’s 3A state meet is Nov. 5 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.