Course familiarity is a crucial component in cross country, particularly the course for the 43rd Annual Verona Invitational.

Oregon freshman Dasha Vorontsov and sophomore Grace Riedl defied conventional wisdom Saturday, Sept. 7, with strong performances on the 5,000-meter course.

Vorontsov finished 21st with a time of 20 minutes, 15.4 seconds. Reidl took 33rd with a time of 20:51.7.

“It was a really challenging and intense race, especially going up the hills,” Vorontsov said. “I did my best, but it felt like I was going so slow.”

The two underclassmen ran side-by-side during the first lap to establish a good pace before Vorontsov took off and Reidl hustled to the finish line.

“It makes me feel more energized having someone run next to me,” Vorontsov said. “It gives me strength and positivity. Grace is so optimistic, and I enjoy working out with her.”

“They really work together well in practice, just pushing each other to get better,” Oregon coach Doug Debroux said of Vorontsov and Reidl. “We talked beforehand about packing, and they did that really well in the first lap. For the second loop, you just do your best.”

Oregon finished ninth out of 22 teams with 246 points, second out of nine Division 2 teams. Senior Zoe Frank took 56th with a time of 21:38.7. Freshman Libby Beirne (22:16.1) and junior Clara Hughes (22:16.3) finished 68th and 69th, respectively.

Senior Bryanna Salazar (82nd, 22:33) and junior Julia Hutchinson (88th, 22:47.4) also competed for the Panthers.

“This is just a learning experience for our team,” Debroux said. “Our goal is to be our best in October, and the girls know that.”

Madison West edged Onalaska 64-65 for the team title due in large part to three runners in the top seven. West sophomore Genevieve Nashold remained undefeated in her high school career with the win in 17:39.5.

Oregon will compete in the Luther College Invitational in Decorah, Iowa, on Saturday. The Panthers attended a running camp at Luther over the summer.

Sports editor Adam Feiner can be contacted at ungsportseditor@wcinet.com.