Rodeheffer places third in national cross country meet

Laura Rodeheffer (1492) takes off after the leaders in the national Junior Olympic cross county championships in Reno.  Rodeheffer finished third in the race on a course that was covered by six inches of snow. - Photo courtesy of William Lord
Laura Rodeheffer (1492) takes off after the leaders in the national Junior Olympic cross county championships in Reno. Rodeheffer finished third in the race on a course that was covered by six inches of snow.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of William Lord

If Rudolph needs some human help guiding Santa’s sleigh through some snow, he might look to Oak Harbor’s Laura Rodeheffer.

Running through falling snow and on a course covered by over six inches of packed snow and ice, the local 10-year-old finished third in bantam division of the national Junior Olympic cross country championships in Reno Dec. 12.

Rodeheffer was joined by four other members of the North Whidbey Running Club, sponsored by the North Whidbey Park and Recreation Department, at the national meet.

Two other local runners, Adrianna Royal and Allison Duvenez, competed for the Federal Way Track Club.

The weather was such a problem that the racers had to walk to the course in Rancho San Rafael Park because vehicles couldn’t get up to the hill that led to the park.

Besides the snow, the course was also difficult for runners because after a 500-meter uphill start, the course narrowed so much it was difficult to pass. Rodeheffer was able to be near the front and away from the pack when the course narrowed, allowing her to pass more easily.

She trailed, along with a group of six other runners, the lead pack of five most of the race and then moved to sixth at 1.25 miles.

NWRC spokesman Catie Rodeheffer said Laura had said all week leading up the race that her legs felt “sprinty.” Sprinty they were. With 400 meters left, she was fifth, at 200 meters fourth, then in the final five meters she grabbed third in 12:12 out of 197 runners.

Lauren Gregory of Texas (12:02) won the national meet; Julia Bounds, last year’s national champion, was second (12:05).

Laura Rodeheffer, who finished fourth in the regional qualifying meet, also defeated all three girls who she trailed in the regional.

Teammate Kaitlyn Chelberg, 10, also competed in the same race and placed 42nd (13:22). Catie Rodeheffer said that Chelberg was bogged down in the pack and had difficulty passing, but reached her goal of finishing in the top 50.

NWRC’s Dakota Powers, 12, competed in the 3,000-meter midget boys’ race and finished 90th out of 233 in 11:54. Powers, who uses an inhaler for exercise induced asthma, was unable to use his normal medication. Racers had to declare that they needed an inhaler 21 days before the national meet. He did not qualify until 21 days prior. The altitude and cold in Reno “sorely affected his performance” according to Catie Rodeheffer.

Powers, who ran a 10:19 and finished third in the 3,000 meters at the USA Track and Field nationals this summer, had hoped for a top-10 finish. Rodeheffer said he handled the situation with “aplomb and grace and never made excuses.”

Olivia Meyer, 14, placed 114th out of 223 in the youth girls’ 4,000 meter race (17:38), and John Rodeheffer, 13, placed 40th out of 242 in the youth boys’ race (14:39).

Running in the intermediate division, Royal placed 37th out of 134 in 20:38, four spots ahead of Duvenez in 20:49. Like Powers, Royal's athsma was affected by the conditions, according her mother, Dena Royal.

The Oak Harbor High School juniors helped their Federal Way team place sixth in the national team standings.

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