Wells' Asher Danielson held off West Salem's Jack Meier to win the Jim Danner Championships. (Ken Martinez/WestCoastXC)
Wells' Asher Danielson held off West Salem's Jack Meier to win the Jim Danner Championships. (Ken Martinez/WestCoastXC)

Coming off a junior season without a first-place finish, Wells' Asher Danielson has discovered a winning formula as a senior.

Danielson came through with another victory Saturday in the Nike Portland XC meet at Clackamas Community College, once again using his late speed to beat West Salem senior Jack Meier by two seconds in the Jim Danner Championship race.

It was the third win this season for Danielson, who also won the 3,000-meter senior race at the season-opening Wilsonville Night Meet and the PIL District Preview. In his other race, he was the top Oregon finisher at The Mook Invite in Tillamook with a personal best of 14:51.0, the best time in the state this season.

Wells coach Thor Esbensen said Danielson is carrying momentum from the track season, when he placed fourth in the 1,500 and seventh in the 800 at the 6A championships.

“I think that really boosted his confidence like, 'Yeah, I am the real deal,'” Esbensen said of Danielson, who placed 16th in the 6A cross country meet last year. “Asher has a gift of top-end speed. With 80 meters to go, he just has a gear that few athletes possess.”

Danielson showed that speed Saturday. Meier made a late move and held the lead with about 400 meters left, but Danielson countered on the final uphill stretch to pull in front near the 200-meter mark and won a downhill sprint to the finish. He defeated Meier 15:01.8 to 15:03.9.

“The final lap, I was definitely feeling it,” Danielson told RunnerSpace.com. “I was thinking positive things, convincing myself this was going to be OK. Coming around that corner over there I was like, 'All right, this is my time, this is time to bring my training in.' So I made a move, I got up to the lead, and just came down that hill with my kick. I just trust my kick that I'll beat the other guy.

“I wasn't even thinking, I was just running as fast as possible. And my legs were feeling it. It was one of my tougher races.”

Danielson built his strength throughout the offseason with the idea that if he could put himself in position near the end of races, his speed would make the difference. It has been a winning strategy so far.

In the Night Meet, Southridge senior Collin Penuel moved past Danielson and Meier on the backstretch in the final 400 meters, but Danielson responded by kicking to victory.

“He took a lot of confidence away from that,” Esbensen said. “It was like, 'OK, if I just keep myself in the game long enough, I feel pretty good about it.'”

In the PIL District Preview, Danielson held back for much of the race to push his teammates. With about 1,000 meters left, he was able to cover the gap between the front group and win the race to the finish.

Danielson has assumed the role of team leader after the graduation of Kai Mitchell-Reiss, last year's No. 1 runner who has moved on to a college career at Villanova. Esbensen said that Danielson learned much from training with Mitchell-Reiss.

“He's capitalized on a lot of those lessons,” Esbensen said. “Now with Kai moving on it's left Asher to kind of take up the mantle. It's his time, and he's really embraced that moment.”

Danielson's best time of 14:51.0 is a 33-second drop from last season. He is closing in on the school record of 14:38.8, set by Guiliano Scasso in 2020.

“He's really put in the time and he's reaping the rewards,” Esbensen said. “He's on a quest to assert himself among the top athletes in the region.”

Add Jim Danner

Finishing behind Danielson and Meier in the Jim Danner Championships were Valor Christian (Colo.) senior Dane Eike (15:11.6), Summit junior Hayden Boaz (15:12.6) and Summit junior Noah Laughlin-Hall (15:22.2).

Valor Christian outscored Franklin 89-131 for first place.

Emily Cohen of Cherry Creek (Colo.) won the girls race, finishing in 17:41.2. Valley Catholic junior Jaya Simmons was second in a personal-best 18:03.9.

Cherry Creek beat Central Kitsap (Wash.) 81-90 for first place. Sunset was the highest-placing Oregon team, taking fifth with 193 points.

Wisniewski wins with PR

Crescent Valley junior Emily Wisniewski continued her torrid pace with another victory Saturday in the Nike Twilight XC at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, Wash.

Wisniewski, the two-time 5A champion, finished in 16:33.8 to win by 37 seconds over Skyline (Wash.) senior Rebecca O'Keefe (17:10.8). Her time is the fastest in the state this season by more than one minute over North Salem sophomore Nelida Dalgas (17:36.7).

Wisniewski improved on her personal best of 17:00.0, which was a 24-second drop from her fastest time last season. She is a serious threat to challenge the 5,000 state-meet record of 17:26, set by Grant's Ella Donaghu in 2015 and Sunset's Ember Stratton in 2016.

Baker Invitational

Union senior Eli Williams, who has the top time in 2A/1A boys this season, outraced two of the best runners in 3A to win the Baker Invitational on Thursday at Baker City Golf Course.

Williams finished in 16:57 to beat Enterprise junior Jett Leavitt (17:09) and Enterprise sophomore Jonah Lyman (17:10). Leavitt and Lyman have the No. 3 and No. 1 times in 3A this season, respectively.

Union outpointed The Dalles 53-96 for first place.

La Grande (56) held off Union (77) to win the girls team title. The Tigers placed four runners in the top six with junior Cecilia Villagomez (first), sophomore Brooke Perry (second) and seniors Emily Tubbs (fourth) and Kiah Carlson (sixth).