EUGENE Ahmed Muhumed made a statement without saying a thing.
When West Salem’s distance dynamo strode down the front stretch of the track at Lane Community College with a commanding five second lead Saturday afternoon, it was apparent to the fans who braved the rainy conditions that he is the best male cross country runner in the state.
What that performance declared was that he is the best male cross country runner ever from Salem.
Not only did the confident senior easily win his second straight OSAA Class 6A state championship in 15:21, but he displayed that he can win state championships no matter the competition or circumstances.
And it doesn’t hurt that he ran one of the fastest times ever on the 5,000 meter course.
“I honestly, I still had more energy in me, really, and I could have gone a little faster, but I wanted to make sure nobody was close to me,” Muhumed said. “That’s why I was looking back and (Jesuit junior Josh Schumacher) is a great guy, he’s very talented.
“Any of the guys that were behind me, they’re all talented, every single one of them, but I wanted to make sure that I had no one right next to me.”
In other words, his biggest concern was winning.
Muhumed began feeling the pressure to repeat as a state champion the minute he won his first state title in 2015.
Through the track season he heard people talking about how great he was, but he was disappointed by placing third in the state in both the 1,500 and 3,000.
Those were results most high school athletes could only dream up, but they weren’t state championships, and Muhumed had to get another one.
So he started off well Saturday and made sure that he would always be among the front runners, thereby making sure he would never get boxed in.
“I didn’t have any strategy coming in, it was just a race and make sure that I defend the title,” Muhumed said. “A lot of strategies that people come in, they change throughout the race.
“I was just out here to defend the title that I got here last year. There are a lot of great and talented guys out here and I just wanted to make sure that I did that. I just wanted to make sure that I kick and have a good finish at the end.”
Muhumed isn’t the first state champion from Salem – that would be South Salem’s Clayton Steinke in 1958 – or its first repeat state champion – Steinke again.
In fact, he’s the third boys state champion at the largest classification and fourth from Salem to win a state championship.
What has made him a great champion is that Muhumed never left results to chance.
“After each season I wanted to do better and since I got the title last year I couldn’t get negative 1, so I wanted to make sure that I defended that, and it’s pressuring really because you have all these guys targeting you and they’re on your back, and I just wanted to make sure that I defend that title, really,” said Muhumed, who led West Salem to ninth in the team standings.
“I wanted to do that for my family, friends, coaches, who supported me for my whole high school career.”
Muhumed’s friend from his days at David Douglas nearly followed his example, but let his state championship aspirations get away in the final inches.
Jefferson junior Hassan Ibrahim was passed in the final inches by Union’s Tim Stevens for the 3A/2A/1A state championship, and they finished in identical times of 16:12.
“My strategy was get the lead and then just relax at the end of the race,” Ibrahim said.
“Second time coming around those hills, going my legs and then before I got to the track I felt heavy in my legs,” said Ibrahim, who led his team to a fourth place finish.
“I couldn’t move on. I just tried to push, push, push, but there was nothing changing on. I just got caught with 200 meters to go. Nothing I could do about it.”
In the girls side of the 3A/2A/1A girls meet, Kennedy junior Kaylin Cantu continued on an upward trajectory with a third place finish in 19:09 to lead the Trojans to a fourth place trophy.
“This year I really trained more than I have in the past,” said Cantu, who placed seventh and 10th the past two years. “I think if I train harder maybe I can place higher next year like I’ve been doing.”
Also at the meet, Stayton junior Casey Pugh placed 10th in the 4A boys race in 16:53.
Sprague’s Kaylee Mitchell (12th), Ginger Murnieks (14th) and Elyse Abbott (23rd) led the Olympians to a seventh place finish.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler