SALEM, OR – The Trinity Lutheran College Cross-Country Team was back in action on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Willamette Invitational held at Salem’s Bush Pasture Park. The meet is one of the largest and most competitive each year on the West Coast. This year it featured more than 900 athletes and 40 collegiate teams from across the western United States in four races. The Eagles competed in the men’s 8-kilometer Gold race, which began at noon under an unrelenting sun and clear blue skies.
With freshmen James Nelson (Sultan High School) and Omar Vera (Clover Park High School) competing for the first time this season the Eagles had a complete team of five men at the starting line for the first time this year. With a scripted race strategy Cameron Siler and Lloyd Byram were out more conservatively than at the Sundodger Invite and ran a team-race with captain Brandon Jenkins setting the early pace for the younger runners.
Under the guidance of Jenkins, Siler and Byram both had breakout performances. Siler was the top finisher for the Eagles finishing in 178th place in a PR time of 28:23.91 – a 32 second PR. Finishing next for the Trinity men was Lloyd Byram in 28:54.72 – good for 194th place and nearly 3 minutes faster than he had run in his first race this season. James Nelson was the 3rd Eagle to finish in 226th place in a time of 31:07.75. Omar Vera, in the first cross-country race of his career, finished next in 253rd in a time of 43:22.18. Brandon Jenkins pulled out of the race, nursing a tender foot, with just over a mile left and did not finish.
Coach Koenigs commented on the performances, “I am beyond impressed with what Omar accomplished today. He was certainly up to the challenge – and I couldn’t be more proud of him. We had four men establish new personal records and any time you have that happen you’ve had a pretty good day as a team.” Asked about Jenkins’ foot injury Koenigs explained, “Brandon will be ok. He had a pressure spot on his foot from wearing spikes on a course that called for blanks and dropped out when he started to feel pain under one of his metatarsals. You’ll see him bounce back next weekend at WWU.”
The Eagles will be back out competing again next weekend on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the WWU Invite at East Lake Padden Park in Bellingham; the men’s 10-kilometer race begins at 10 a.m.