CORVALLIS — Toby Ruston wanted the win on Saturday at the Mid-Willamette Conference cross-country district meet.
With 100 meters to go on the course at the Crystal Lake Sports Park, the junior from Dallas High School was behind sophomore Blake Byer of Crescent Valley.
He wasn’t going to settle for that. Throwing everything into the final 50 meters, Ruston passed Byer to cross the finish line in first place, becoming the district champion for the boys team and sealing the deal with a personal record and a personal best.
“That last mile I was really tired, and I didn’t think I could do it,” Ruston said.
He did it, running the 5,000-meters race in 15:36.1, securing his victory by .08.
“The finish was something else,” he said, smiling. “My plan was to take the first mile and take the second mile, and I was hoping that Blake (Byer) would push me for the last mile and that’s what happened.”
Head coach Monique Lankheet and several assistant coaches were at the finish line, cheering him on.
“Toby ran his guts out,” Lankheet said. “That level of heart was very powerful. We were at the finish line, watching every step. It was a fun day.”
The team celebrated a second-place victory, clinching its spot at the state meet on Saturday at Lane Community College.
“The team competed well,” Lankheet said. ‘We had a lot of PRs and personal bests. So many kids stepped up for us. You know, I wanted to qualify for state, but I didn’t want to put pressure on them, and they stepped up so we were able to get second.”
Not all of the Dragon team members were satisfied with how their race went.
“Overall, it could have gone better, I’ll just say that,” said senior Gavin Grass. “Just got caught up in the moment, between pain and placement, but overall we did well.”
Grass nabbed fourth place, clocking in at 16:21.30.
‘Going into the race, I wanted third, and the last 800 meters, it was close, it was right there, but I got fourth,” he said.
He said he hopes to run better than this week on Saturday’s race.
Ruston’s goal for that meet: “Run as fast as I can. Get on the podium,” he said.
According to Lankheet, the team is sitting in fifth place heading into state, but really wants to get fourth place, she said.
“So we have to do some soul searching this weekend,” Lankheet said. “And just, we’re hoping to get on that podium.”
Grass is seeded for 11th place, and Ruston for fifth.
“I think it would be really cool for Gavin to be in the top 10,” Lankheet said. “That was a goal for him last year, so we’ll see if he can muster something up.”
The girls team took sixth place, just two spots out of the running for competing at state.
Freshman Marley Lamb was the first Dragon finisher for the girls, taking 13th place, crossing the finish line in 20:13.10.