You don't have to wind up Siuslaw Vikings cross country coach Chris Johnson to get him to talk, and he usually has a lot of good stuff to say.
Saturday he saw a lot of good things from both his boys and girls teams at the star-studded Spartan Invite at Marist Catholic in Eugene.
"I'm really happy," Johnson said. "It was a great meet for us."
For a coach used to high finishes in district and state, he was pleased with the middle-of-the-pack results, the boys sixth in a field of 10, the girls fifth in a field of nine.
"We're not like everybody else," he said. "We're not ready to race yet. The first time you do a 100 percent effort, there's a lot of cobwebs you have to dust off.
"Mentally, even though we've been running a lot, it's different when you have to go all out."
On the boys side, he was impressed with the leadership of his seniors and a breakout performance by freshman Sam Ulrich, who finished fourth among nine Vikings on the day.
"Sam Ulrich ran out of his mind today," Johnson said. "He's just a gamer and he comes from a family of runners and he runs really smart and patient.
"Having Sam run like that changes the whole dynamic of the team. Not that I didn't think it would happen. I just wasn't sure, based on what he was able to do training wise, because he was injured, it would happen this soon.
"Some people just have it in them, that inner drive, and they just show up on race day and really run well. So that was an incredible effort for him. He hasn't been anywhere near that in training.
"I would have bet money that by the end of the season he might be in our top five, definitely in our top seven. That was a pretty performance."
Senior Brendon Jensen turned in the top time for the Vikings, his 16 minutes, 47.1 seconds less than 12 seconds of his personal record of 16:35.9 set in last spring's Sky-Em League championships.
"The boys were really ready," Johnson said. "I'm not surprised. These guys, the senior class, they have been much heralded since the time they were freshmen but they really have never put anything together that deserves to be heralded.
"We've won a league title and we've made it to state. I think a couple of those guys know, Brendon and Kiger (Johnson), especially, and Jared (Northrop), that this is it. They have some great energy, and it has spread to the youth. We have a great young team."
Senior Hannah Rannow paced the Vikings girls with a time of 19:23.9 for a 10th-place finish in a strong field.
"I was really pleased with Hannah. She ran great," Johnson said. "It was kind of a star-studded field. It's early, and she moved up pretty good and ran a great time."
In addition to running the minimum five runners, the Lady Vikings were without senior Chloe Madden (ankle) and sophomore Rylee Colton (hip), two consistent team scorers who should return to competition soon.
"Obviously, for the girls, it's tough for them to get excited and motivated and amped up without our No. 3 and No. 4 from last year," Johnson said.
"We've won with five (runners) before. We don't have a lot of depth, but the girls we have are studs. But, we look at Marist, and they killed us today. They had six, seven girls in front of our second. That's not close, whether we have people missing or not. They ran well and this is their home course and they are well coached. Returning state champions. We have our work cut out for us. Nothing is ever easy.
The Vikings also were coming off a hard week of training, and Johnson could sense they were tired.
"This week was really hard, probably too hard," he said. "We haven't done anything crazy, super fast, at race pace, but we've done a lot of mileage, a lot of hills, a lot of threshold work. And they were sore from weight training. They got in the weight room for the first time this week.
"We're operating on adrenaline a lot. The boys definitely had a little more adrenaline than the girls did today. That's good, though. The boys have been watching the girls get talked about for a long time. If you want to get talked about, you need to do something worthy of a conversation. So they did that today. Hopefully that sets the tone. We'll get our two girls healthy and we'll see what happens."
Next up for the Vikings is the Northwest Classic this coming Saturday at Lane Community College.
"To me it's just fun to see how people react the first time they have competition," Johnson said. "Some people rise to the occasion, and have the intensity, and some people come back and realize they have to refocus some energies to make sure the intensity is there to have the best performance.
"This is huge. I come to these meets and try to watch everything and we go back and assess where we are and have individual conversations with kids and hope to get better.
"We'll get a lot better."
Saturday, Sept. 7, at Marist Catholic, Eugene
Place, Athlete, Year, Time (personal record, event)
15. Brendon Jensen, senior, 16:47.1 (16:35.9, 2018 Sky-Em district)
25. Jaxson Jensen, junior, 17:33.6 (17:33.6, 2019 Spartan Invite)
26. Kiger Johnson, senior, 17:36.0 (17:08.8, 2018 Warner Pacific Classic)
28. Samuel Ulrich, freshman, 17:41.1 (17:41.1, 2019 Spartan Invite)
43. Chad Hughes, sophomore, 18:19.8 (17:53.3, 2018 Warner Pacific Classic)
44. Kyle Hughes, freshman, 18:23.4 (18:23.4, 2019 Spartan Invite)
49. Ryan Jennings, junior, 18:32.6 (17:34.3, 2018 Warner Pacific Classic)
50. Jared Northrop, senior, 18:33.5 (17:45.5, 2017 Woahink Lake Invitational)
65. Jacob Blankenship, freshman, 19:27.7 (19:27.7, 2019 Spartan Invite)
Team: Summit 39, Sheldon 53, South Eugene 81, Grants Pass 107, Marist 115, Siuslaw 134, Bandon 209, Junction City 228, Springfield 246, North Eugene 288
10. Hannah Rannow, senior, 19:23.9 (18:33.3, 2018 Sky-Em district)
33. Brea Blankenship, junior, 21:16.1 (19:32.6, 2018 Sky-Em district)
42. Anne Wartnik, senior, 21:46.6 (20:18.1, 2018 Sky-Em district)
44. Gracie Freudenthal, junior, 22:09.4 (21:01.0, 2018 Sky-Em district)
56. Bryan Clement, senior, 24:34.8 (23.:30.4, 2018 Sky-Em district)
Team: Summit 19, South Eugene 70, Marist 87, Grants Pass 103, Siuslaw 149, Sheldon 159, Springfield 183, Junction City 186
SIUSLAW 2019 SCHEDULE
Saturday, Sept. 14 — Northwest Classic, Lane Community College, Eugene
Saturday, Sept. 28 — Springfield Invitational
Saturday, Oct. 5 — Woahink Lake Invitational, 10 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 12 — Paul Mariman Invitational, Philomath
Saturday, Oct. 19 — Warner Pacific Classic, Lents Park, Portland
Thursday, Oct. 24 — The Run for the Brownies, Florence Golf Links
Thursday, Oct. 31 — Sky-Em League championships, Lane Community College, Eugene
Saturday, Nov. 9 — OSAA 4A state championships, Lane Community College, Eugene
2019 VARSITY ROSTER (from athletic.net)
Jaime Morales Martin-Mora
Head coach: Chris Johnson
Assistant coaches: Rachelle Campbell, Steven Moser
Head coach: Chris Johnson
Assistant coaches: Amy Flora, Neil Wartnik, Rachelle Campbell
Siuslaw drops hard-fought Sky-Em League opener at defending league champion Cottage Grove, 3-2.
Siuslaw entertains Newport in home opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Hans Petersen Memorial Field.
Siuslaw heads to Cottage Grove to take on the defending Sky-Em champion Lady Lions.
Vikings coach goes 1-on-1 with his players, turning around a game and perhaps a season.