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2019 XC Top 25 Teams (Men): #9 Portland Pilots

Graphic by Logan French

Any smaller school looking to put its cross country program on the map should look at what Coach Rob Conner has done at Portland. Out of nowhere, the small Catholic school located in the pacific northwest has become a distance powerhouse. In back-to-back years (2017 and 2018), the Pilots lost some big pieces of their varsity lineup, but still put together stellar performances that put them on the podium. Entering the 2019 season, the team will face a similar challenge after graduating four seniors from last years top seven, including All-Americans Logan Orndorf and Nick Hauger.

Given the results of the past two years, we know better than to doubt Coach Conner’s squad. Even with a less experienced team, it would be surprising to see Portland outside of the top 10 this fall.

This team is bigger than just one individual or even one recruiting class which is further proof that this program is on their way towards earning their place among the elites (if they aren't there already).

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Portland, like many top teams, debuted their top squad in 2018 at the Nuttycombe Invitational. Senior Nick Hauger led the way with a monster 6th place finish, but 2019 returners Caleb Webb, Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, and Stuart McCallum formed the spine of the Pilots lineup. Webb finished 17th in that race while Roudolff-Levisse and McCallum crossed the line together in 39th and 40th, respectively. Riley Osen also earned an 80th place finish which was enough to round out Portland's top five.

Altogether, Portland made quite the early-season statement by finishing 3rd in a deep field, losing only to host Wisconsin by five points and defending national champions NAU.

Next up was another visit to Wisconsin to race in the White section of Pre-Nationals. However, instead of replicating their performance at Nuttycombe, Coach Conner opted to sit most of his top guys in an effort to give back end of his lineup some experience on the National Championship course. While senior Michael Somers secured a clutch 22nd place finish, it was Reuben Kiprono and Sam Lomax who finished 60th and 61st, respectively. Right behind that duo was Peter Allegre who put together a 68th place finish of his own. Even with most of the varsity lineup sitting out, Portland proved their depth by finishing as the 9th overall team.

In a competitive West Coast Conference meet, Coach Conner once again decided against racing his entire squad as he held out Roudolff-Levisse, McCallum, and Webb. In their place, Rosen, Kiprono, and freshman Evert Silva stepped up in a big way to finish 10th, 14th, and 16th, respectively. Behind them were Michael Teran-Solano who crossed the line in 20th. With Nick Hauger taking home the individual title, it was clear that Portland had done enough to secure a runner-up finish behind BYU and to pull ahead of a respectable Gonzaga team.

After sitting his top guns, Coach Conner unleashed his full firepower at the West Regional Championships. Behind their strong senior class who finished as Portland’s one through four, the Pilots beat a very strong field to earn an automatic qualifying spot to Nationals. The team was shaping into form at the perfect time.

An incredible team effort that saw Portland put six runners in the top 60 (in the team standings) ended up being enough to put the Pilots back onto the podium for the second year in a row, this time in 3rd place.

After an up-and-down regular season, Roudolff-Levisse provided the team with a surprising low-score performance by finishing 21st overall. With Logan Orndorf placing 25th and Hauger placing 40th, the Pilots ended their season with three established All-Americans. Behind them were 2019 returners McCallum and Webb who finished 48th and 68th, respectively. There may not have been a team who peaked more perfectly than Portland did last fall.

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But that was 2018. Let's look ahead to 2019.

Hauger is gone.

Orndorf is gone.

Somers is gone.

Schutte is gone.

Yeah, that's a lot of scoring potency that is now out the window for this Portland program.

However, for the most part, really only two of these men will have a notable impact on the Pilots scoring this fall. Schutte was rarely inside their top five (he was their #5 at Nuttycombe in 46th place) while Orndorf only toed the line for the regional and national meets.

In the big picture, the true impact losses will be Nick Hauger who gave the team a superstar low-stick, and Michael Somers who gave the team incredible stability and consistency in the middle/back portion of their lineup.

These losses will hurt quite a bit, but it won't completely cripple the program.

The Pilots will have to rely on some of their younger talents to put them back into the top 10 at Nationals. New varsity members Riley Osen, Michael Teran-Solano, and Evert Silva will need to step up in a big way for Portland. But don’t worry Pilot fans, these young guys are the real deal.

Osen had some solid races last fall, particularly his 10th place finish at the West Coast Conference (WCC) Championships. His 8:41 steeplechase PR from his freshman years tells us that if he is healthy, he has the potential to be a legitimate star.

Then we have Teran-Solano who only raced once last fall. However, he did have a breakout track season where he ran new personal bests of 13:57 and 29:19. Look for him to take a big step up on the grass this year.

However, maybe the most intriguing runner out of these three is now-sophomore Evert Silva who ran well at the WCC Championships and the West Regional Championships last fall. He also went onto have a successful track season which saw him flex his range. In consecutive races, he ran PR's in the 10k (29:17), the 1500 (3:46), and the 5k (13:48). Look for these three men, Silva specifically, to be featured in most of Coach Conner’s lineups this fall.

But wait, there's more!

Reuben Kiprono is yet another candidate who could find himself inside of Portland's top seven. The rising redshirt junior finished 60th at Pre-Nationals, 14th at WCC, and ran 30:15 for 10,000 meters this past spring. He showed a lot of promising signs for the Pilots in the early stages of the 2018 cross country season, but he likely needed another year to refine his talent before he could become a consistent contributor.

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Coach Conner, after bringing in yet another top recruiting class, will have a handful of freshmen who will do their darnedest to contribute this year. Of that group, three names stick out in terms of (potential) immediate impact.

First up is Bradley Peloquin whose older brother Tristan is on the team. The younger Peloquin comes to Portland after running 4:11 and 8:56 in high school. If he can adjust quickly to the longer distances, then he could very easily factor into the Pilots plans for 2019. But will Coach Conner opt to redshirt the young star? We saw him do the same thing with Justin Hazell last fall...

Jonas Gertsen of Denmark crosses the pond with a PR of 8:16 in the 3k and 14:40 in the 5k. The Dane, along with fellow European Louis Vandermessen (who has run 8:17 and 5:46 in the 2k steeplechase), could potentially earn spots in Portland's finalized varsity lineup if they improve upon entering the U.S. It will be interesting to see how

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We could go on for days talking about the numerous different men who could end up running for Portland in the postseason. We didn't even talk about key sleeper picks like Justin Hazell, Sam Lomax, or Peter Allegre. It truly feels like 80% of this roster could end up contributing, and that's not because Portland is low on lineup options. If anything, it's because everyone on this team is (or can be) that good.

For Portland to earn their place in the top 10, the team will to rally behind a very solid, albeit imperfect, top three. Roudolff-Levisse is coming off of a nice track season where he ran 28:37 while Caleb Webb is also coming off a successful spring after running PR's in the 1500 (3:45), 5k (13:56), and 10k (29:15). These two, along with McCallum (who might be the most underrated #3 man in the country) will all need to be All-Americans as the rest of the lineup grows into their varsity roles.

With a lot of unproven, but talented depth to work with, the odds are good that Coach Conner will develop the next Nick Hauger or Logan Orndorf in an effort to restore Portland back to the podium in the near future.

As for this year? Well, a repeat performance may be closer than many people realize…


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