Henry Coughlan leads Wallowa County boys cross country team to state victory
By Katy Nesbitt
Wallowa Valley Online
JOSEPH, Ore – Last fall a team of mostly freshman boys came screaming onto the state cross country scene. At the end of the season, the Wallowa County boys placed second in The Oregon state team competition and their top runner, Henry Coughlan, placed second as an individual. The boys knew they were destined for dominance.
With most of its varsity members returning, the Wallowa County boys powered their way past Burns this year winning the Oregon State 3A Cross Country meet in Eugene Nov. 9. Coughlan, now a sophomore, won the race in 15.58.9, just 3.5 seconds off his personal best time of 15:52.5. Two sophomore teammates joined Coughlan on the podium – Zac Knapp was third with a time of 16:07.10 and Bayden Menton placed fourth finishing in 16:23.80.
The fourth and fifth men on the team nearly tied – Junior John Paul Matthews was 15th with a time of 17:19:40 with Ian Goodrich on his heels placing 16th in 17:19:50.
Senior Ellyse Tingelstad finished her high school cross country career on the podium as well finishing fifth at the state meet in a time of 19.17.7 – four seconds off of her personal best. Tingelstad is the girl’s team’s top runner, finishing first this year at the Catherine Creek Scamper in Union, the Helix Stubblebuster in Helix and the Tiger Invite in La Grande. Tingelstad was fifth at last year’s state meet, but with a much slower time of 19.42. The state meet veteran took 10th in 2017 and 11th in 2016.
The last two years Wallowa County’s boys team had the toughest competition from Burns, a team in their own league. At the district meet Nov. 1 the top five finishers’ scores tied the teams with 32 points apiece forcing the judges to factor in the sixth runners for each team. Burns was declared the victor as its sixth man was 3.3 seconds ahead of Wallowa County’s sixth runner.
Going into the state meet the two teams from remote reaches of Eastern Oregon battled it out on the Lane Community College course, this time with Wallowa County winning, earning 35 points to Burns’ 38.
Coughlan said the members of the two teams have become tight over the years, even sharing a tent at the Steens Mountain Running Camp this past July.
“We have a close connection with them – they are super tough competitors,” Coughlan said. “It was tough beating them, but it was for the best.”
Coughlan mixed up serious, focused, runner-talk with the goofy, whimsical shenanigans in an hour interview shortly after winning the state meet with a sore knee.The Monday after the district meet he said went to see local physical therapist Jerry Ivy who told him his pelvis had rotated, putting the knee under a lot of stress. Two physical therapy sessions, a lot of rest, ice and elevating the knee got him where he needed to be by the state race.
Now a two-time state veteran and the team’s top man, Coughlan said the culture of the state meet is “crazy”.
“During the race I wasn’t even thinking about how I performing, but how everyone was performing,” Coughlan said.
As he was finishing the race, he said he had his “head on a swivel” to see where the rest of the team was – checking to see if they were in position to win as a team.
“The whole week before state we were emphasizing on doing our best and not worrying about the competition,” Coughlan said.
It came down to the fourth and fifth place finishers to bust up Burns’ pack that made them so tough to beat. Coughlan credited Coach Dan Moody yelling encouragement to the boys on the state course for getting them all across the finish line with fast enough times to win as a team.
As for Coughlan’s own racing strategy, he said he’s the kind of racer who wants to be out front early and put a lot of ground between him and the guy behind him.
Over the past couple of years Coughlan has developed into not only a fine racer but a runner – one who appreciates going for an easy run at sunset or getting up at dawn for daily doubles. Always goal-oriented after some much-needed rest Coughlan said he’s going to set his sites on breaking 15:25 next year in cross country.
Coughlan said, “I have good endurance, but don’t have the ability yet to change gears at certain parts of a race.”
He said he’s also learned a lot about fitness. As an incoming freshman, he attended the Steens Mountain Running Camp with a couple of teammates, but didn’t train. The camp is rigorous – tough terrain and lots of miles. He said on the camp’s Big Day when the entire camp runs and hikes 30 or so miles, he got to a point where he wanted to collapse, but a counselor picked him up by his backpack and urged him on. He was one of the few finishers that year.
This past year Coughlan said he was better prepared and in shape.
Coughlan said, “I ran Lostine River Run two weeks before the camp and was running 25 to 30 miles a week consistently every day and having a lot of fun with it.”
Not only did he stay with the lead group the entire Big Day, but on another day his counselor put him up to taking fifth among the best runners at the camp in an uphill 5k. He said everyone took the first mile slowly. In between miles two and three, he made his move and there were only three kids left in the front pack. Coughlan said he felt like he could easily get second until he heard a voice in the crowd say, “Go, Henry!”
“I got a second wind right when I thought it was over,” Coughlan said. “I passed the guy in front and won by two seconds.”
This winter Coughlan said he’s going to take it easy until he is fully recovered – he’s bypassing basketball season and doesn’t plan on racing until track season.
“I was going to Boise for Northwest Regional Championships, but there is no need to continue and push my body,” Couglan said. “It’s been a good season and don’t need to prove myself – I’ve come to understand rest is important.”