Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Washington crushes Oregon in eleventh annual Cross Country Border Clash

One of the things I like to do to take a break from politics (at least during autumn) is watch cross country meets. The sport runs in the family; my father is the head coach of the cross country program at Redmond High School, and my brother and sister have been captains and varsity runners.

(For those who don't know what cross country is, picture the second longest race in track and field, but through the woods instead of on a track. Courses are typically five kilometers in length, but can be shorter or longer).

I could have turned out and run cross country back when I was in high school, but Washington State needed somebody to fight Tim Eyman, and that person happened to be me, so I became an activist instead.

(The rest, as they say, is history...)

However, it's become an annual tradition for me to attend and photograph at least a few meets every season, particularly the state championship meet, which I've been to for several years running (pun intended).

Today I was at a special meet, hosted by Nike at their world headquarters, called Border Clash. Border Clash pits the top runners from the Evergreen and Beaver States against each other in a best of the region competition.

Nike really goes all out for this event... and I mean all out.

They create separate starting lines for the Washington and Oregon teams on either side of a field in the middle of their campus in Beaverton, flanked by banners and pennants. They have flag bearers on horseback.

They sell special apparel (jerseys, sweatshirts) just for the occasion.

And they have a helicopter hovering overhead with a powerful camera that streams video footage to four big flat screen televisions mounted inside tents on the field so that spectators can follow the race as it winds around the Nike campus.

Border Clash has always been held in Oregon, but Oregon hasn't always dominated the meet. In fast, the reverse was true today: Washington obliterated Oregon so thoroughly that the announcers were actually cracking jokes well before all the competitors had crossed the finish line.

The Washington men took all top ten spots; the Washington women took nine of the top ten, with just one Oregonian among them. (In cross country, the lowest score wins; the scores are calculated by adding together the points of each team's top finishers. The runner who finishes in first place gets one point, the runner who finishes second place gets two points, and so on.)

The result was so lopsided that the awards ceremony was totally anticlimactic. But it was still one of the most enjoyable meets I've ever been to. The start of each race was particularly exciting: the two teams (Oregon and Washington) started at opposite ends of the field and ran towards each other, turning right and left, respectively, after a cannon blast signaled the start of the race. As the two teams mixed together in the funnel midfield to begin the race, fireworks were lit. A Beaverton marching band provided a musical canvas before the races began.

Nike is sponsoring another big cross country meet - the Nike Cross Nationals - on December 5th at Portland Meadows. It should be a great meet... I encourage any readers who live in Greater Portland and Vancouver who enjoy spectator sports to think about heading there to watch. The best high school distance runners from across the United States will be competing.

If it's anything like Border Clash, it should be an incredible amount of fun.


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