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It’s been a special season for the Taft 7-12 cross country team.

After numbers were low to begin the year, the Tigers continued their streak of sending a boys team to the State Championship while also sending their first girls runner in a decade.

The Tigers took to the State course at Lane Community College on Nov. 9. First up was senior Autumn Ellis, who competed as an individual in the 5,000 meter 3A/2A/1A girls race. Facing a field of 85 runners, Ellis turned in a respectable time of 21:54.80 in her final race of her career to place 38th overall.

Next up, the boys team ran against nine other 3A schools and ended up placing eighth collectively. Senior exchange student Matias Vesma was the top Tiger finisher at 17:19.90 to place 18th overall.

Senior Lucas Hindman placed 30th with a time of 18:02.40, followed by junior Rafael Perez Del Valle at 19:05.50, which placed him at 49th. Sophomore Brayan Mateo was 53rd, senior Hunter Lundstedt was 54th, freshman Cooper Fitch was 61st and freshman Eli Jones was 63rd to round out Taft’s efforts.

With much uncertainty to start the season, to make it to state was a huge accomplishment for Taft and head coach Eva Ahumada. And that success started with the positive attitudes of the runners and the cohesiveness of their group.

“The kids want to be here, they like being at practice and they like being together,” Ahumada said of her team. “They ask for team dinners, and they all enjoy them together. We really have become a sort of family over the season. This cohesiveness will only improve the longevity of the program.”

Having multiple standout performances this season, sending multiple runners to state, winning coach of the year, the list of accolades Taft has accumulated bodes well for the future of the Tiger cross country team. For Ahumada, she has enjoyed the diversity of their team and how much fun they’ve had this season.

“We have athletes from every walk of life,” Ahumada said. “You would never put them all together if you saw them in a room. But they all get along and they all truly care for each other. I love how much fun they have together. It is so much fun to just be around them.

“Coaching is definitely my favorite part of my work day. They are a truly great group of kids. I am proud to be a part of their lives and excited to see what the future holds for them.”

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