COTTAGE GROVE – Carter Bengtson is running away and hiding from all of his competition.
The Cottage Grove junior, who’s ranked No. 1 among the state’s Class 4A cross country runners after placing sixth in the state as a sophomore, coasted to victory Saturday with a time of 16:26.93 in the CG Bramble Scramble, finishing nearly 55 seconds ahead of his closest challenger. In last week’s Paul Mariman Invitational at Philomath, Bengtson outdistanced the second-place finisher by 1 minute, 26 seconds. Before that, he won the Country Fair Classic in 15:42.6, the fastest time by a Cottage Grove runner since 1982.
“Carter works really hard. He understands the importance of all the little things, all the ancillary things like strength and mobility, and eating and sleeping,” Cottage Grove coach Ricky Knutson said. “Plus, he has to take care of all those things while doubling on the varsity soccer team as well. He comes to cross country practice, then takes a short break before going to soccer practice. We have to make sure he’s not overdoing it – there’s a balancing act there.
“On top of that, he’s taking multiple AP classes, so I don’t think he has a lot of spare time.”
And there’s little spare time in the offseason, either. He wrestles in the winter, and runs track in the spring. He was third in the state last year in the 3,000, and also runs the 1,500.
Behind the efforts of Bengtson and eighth-place finisher David Culbert, the Lions boys (79) placed third behind Newport (28) and Philomath (70). The Cottage Grove girls (82) had an even better day, placing second behind Philomath (28) as Maddison France (21:19.92) took sixth place and Ella Cardwell (21:33.71) grabbed ninth with her personal-best time.
“The girls had a great showing today,” Knutson said. “Maddison was our top runner, she ran a great race, a top-10 finish, but Ella actually ran a personal-best on this course, twice up a big hill. It’s a slow course, so she had a phenomenal day.”
Philomath’s Adele Beckstead (19:56.6) won the girls race.
The Lions girls’ performance was especially impressive since one of their top five runners, Bella Keating, is injured.
“We’re hoping to get her back, but she may or may not return,” Knutson said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
The district championships are Thursday, Oct. 26 at Lane Community College. The state meet is nine days after that, on Saturday, Nov. 4.
“We’re in a pretty good spot,” Knutson said of his two teams. “We have a couple of weeks to get healthy, and improve a little bit, but we feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”