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Sophie Bliss finishes in 11th place for the Panthers on Sept. 25.

CORVALLIS — Sophie Bliss might have been tired from her cross-country workouts this week, but the sophomore from Central High School  crossed the finish line with a smile on her face.

“(Head coach) Mr. Cirino has been working us really hard, so that we can peak at the end of the season. We were all kind of tired, but, it’s worth it — it will be worth it,” she said afterward.

Bliss crossed the line at 21:20.24, in 11th place, and the first to finish out of the Panthers’ girls team on Wednesday’s 5,000 kilometer Mid-Willamette Conference Pre Meet, held at Crystal Lake Sports Park in Corvallis.

Approaching the race, she had a plan in mind: “To sprint it out as much as I could at the end and keep a steady pace all throughout.”

The plan worked.

“The race felt powerful,” she said.

From the beginning of the season to now, Bliss has shaved off three minutes of her race time.

She hopes to drop even more time by the end of the season.

“I want to try and drop below 20 minutes,” she said.

The girls team only had three girls racing, as a result of illness and injury, said Cirino.

Sophomore Faith Sanchez clocked in at 22.54.99 for 29th place, and sophomore Gretchen Mitchell finished in 24.35.82, for a 43rd place finish.

“We’re having some injuries and illness with our girls, so we don’t have a complete team most days,” said Cirino.

Overall, though, he’s proud of the work the boys and girls team is putting in.

“The team is great. They’re glad to be out there, running around the park,” he said. “They have a positive attitude.”

On the boys team, no one came in the top 20, but senior Sean Stephenson nabbed a nearly two-minute personal record, clocking in at 18:17.50 for 27th place.

“The boys, we’re starting to figure out who are varsity boys are,” Cirino said. “Today was the first time they had all run a 5K together; the young guys are getting comfortable with a 5K… so that’s exciting. They’re taking some time to adjust to the longer distances, but they’re doing well.”

The team races on Saturday at the 16th Annual Harrier Classic.

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