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Metro cross country: girls

Challengers to Crusaders are lining up
by: MILES VANCE, SHE’S BAAACCCKKK — Aloha junior Shelby Brennan is back to defend her Metro cross country title in 2006.

In what is shaping up to be another banner year, many of the Metro League's coaches believe Jesuit and Sunset's girls cross country teams could finish 1-2 at the state meet.

Both squads qualified for state last year and are the consensus choices to make a return trip. Trouble is, it's going to take a quality performance at the district meet for each to even make it that far.

'This could be one of the years where three of the top five teams are here in the Metro League,' Westview coach Charles Douglas said.

Jesuit, the four-time defending state champion, returns as the team to beat again with team to beat again with Sunset right on their heels.

'They're a legitimate threat,' Jesuit coach Tom Rothenberger said of the Apollos. 'There's going to be a legitimate question mark there.'

'We plan on giving Jesuit a run for their money, but we know we face stiff competition,' Sunset coach Dan Neeway said. 'Jesuit is the clear favorite to win the league title and state.'

While those two should duke it out for the top spot, neither can overlook that Beaverton, Southridge and Westview all welcome back solid crews that could make the race even more heated, while Aloha returns district champion Shelby Brennan.

'We hope to break in there and make it a three-way race,' Beaverton coach Jim Archer said. 'But sometimes five of our schools are in the top 10 and only two get to go. That certainly raises the bar.'

Aloha

ALOHA - While a young Aloha team might not factor in the team race, it certainly will individually. Junior Shelby Brennan returns to defend her district title a year after placing sixth at the state meet.

'She analyzed her state race last year and figured she didn't have her best race,' Aloha coach Tim Tank said. 'She set her sights on improving this year. She definitely has high goals for herself and her workouts are exceeding where she was last fall.'

Behind Brennan, the Apollos will rely on youth to develop as the season progresses with an eye on the district meet.

Sophomore Raquel Lemire has emerged as the team's No. 2 runner, while seniors Rebecca Bumpas and Savannah Bergquist and sophomore Sarah Kim fill out Aloha's five scoring spots.

Beaverton

BEAVERTON - In many leagues, Beaverton's pack would be good enough to earn a state berth. Coach Jim Archer considers his squad to be the 'best girls team we've had in five years.'

Unfortunately, the Beavers also compete in the state's best league, so taking third behind Jesuit and Sunset becomes a logical goal.

'We have a very solid team,' Archer said. 'But Jesuit is kind of a lock and Sunset is tough. Hopefully our girls can get third.'

Senior Sarah Curry leads what Archer expects to be a close group of runners for the Beavers. Curry has been a standout for the track team and decided to test her legs in cross country for the first time last season. The result was a 14th place district finish.

'She went out for cross country to see what's like and ended up leading the team,' Archer said. 'She knows what to do to compete and demonstrates that to the other kids.'

Curry and fellow senior Kate Eppler form what Archer called 'the best captains I've had in years.'

Eppler and junior Lyndsey Thomas and Courtney Graham should closely follow Curry.

Among the contenders are junior Natalie Johnson and Samantha Money.

Jesuit

BEAVERTON - The pack is back.

Well, four out of seven runners off Jesuit's defending state championship team, at least. But there's plenty of others ready and willing to step in and led the Crusaders to another title.

Three of the five Jesuit runners that finished within 9 seconds of each other at the state meet return, led by senior Katie Sullivan. Sullivan paced Jesuit by placing 16th at state last year, after taking 12th as a sophomore and 25th as a freshman.

'She's been real consistent and had some great state meets,' Jesuit coach Tom Rothenberger said.

While Sullivan while often led another tight pack for the Crusaders, she won't have the pressure of always needing to do so with junior Adrienne McGuirk, sophomores Maria Salazar and Noelle VanRysselberghe also returning after finishing 27th, 26th and 30th at state last season, respectively.

'We'll still be a pack-running team,' Rothenberger said. 'It's just a matter of where the pack starts.'

Looking to join that core is a group of three juniors in Theresa McCowsky, Elizabeth Murphy and Laureen Teahan.

'They've been in the program a few years and finally get an opportunity,' Rothenberger said. 'They're hungry.'

With 65 girls out this season, Rothenberger has plenty of others vying for varsity spots with sophomores Claire Haglen and Erin O'Halloran looking to be the most likely to break through.

Southridge

BEAVERTON - The return of its top four district placers and the addition of a transfer from within the league has Southridge coach Doug Fischer optimistic his team might just be able to break the stranglehold Jesuit and Sunset have on the state berths.

The Skyhawks placed third at the district meet last fall and return junior Chelsey Gehrts (eighth) and seniors Perrin Considine (11th), Taylor Smiley (15th) and Breanne Whitlock (22nd).

Smiley heads into the season as the team's No. 1 runners since Gehrts is suffering from problems in her knees.

'Taylor's just solid,' Fischer said. 'She's strong girl and determined mentally. She wants to do well and knows what to do to get there.'

Perrin should also be among the leaders of what Fischer hopes is a tight pack.

'She's been up with the frontrunners at certain times,' Fischer said. 'She always improves as the season goes on.'

Southridge also is aided by the addition of sophomore transfer Brooke Snow, who came from Aloha and took 26th at last year's district meet.

'By the time we reach districts, our goal is to have them running together,' Fischer said. 'Their mindset is very supportive of each other to do well and be successful both in practice and in meets. That's what you need.'

Senior Lauren Hashiguchi, junior Courtney Monahan and sophomores Chloe Steinbeck and Annie Brown are among of number of girls competing for the final two varsity spots.

Sunset

CEDAR MILL - Sunset's coaches (Matt Burg and Dan Neeway) are new, but many of the runners remain the same making the Apollos a solid threat to Jesuit on the district level as well as a squad that could contend for a state title.

Sunset returns five of the girls who competed at the state meet in the Apollos' third-place finish last season and welcomes back another that would've before an injury shortened her season.

'We have the brightest hopes for our girls,' Sunset co-coach Dan Neeway said. 'They have their sights set on succeeding as a team. Our strength is the ability of our top girls to run together.'

Juniors Ellen Lekas and Crissy Foster paced the Apollos to the runner-up district finish by placing sixth and seventh, respectively.

'Crissy had a great season last year and has picked up right where she left off,' Neeway said. 'She will fare well as an individual, but her sights are on team goals.'

Assisting in the team's goals is the return of senior Julia Quiring, who suffered a stress fracture last season.

Also returning for Sunset is sophomores Audrey Botti, Maddie Rousseau and Ginny Edwards.

Westview

ROCK CREEK - Westview coach Charles Douglas enters the 2005 season with excitement that can only quelled by the fact the team competes in the state's toughest league.

And he has every right, given the Wildcats return their top five runners from last year's team, which finished fourth at the district meet. Add in some transfers from the soccer team and an extensive summer training program and Westview has the makings of something special.

'Unfortunately, I think we have the number one and two teams in the state in our conference,' Douglas said. 'But these girls are pretty success motivated. They're going to push and really go out and compete with others.

Leading that charge is junior Bianca Martin, who was injured most of the season before returning for the district meet. Martin placed third at district in the 1,500 during the spring track season.

'That was a turning point for her,' Douglas said. 'She saw herself as one of the top runners in the league. She's loaded with talent and has a shot to challenge for the overall league championship.'

Behind Martin is a pretty close trio of runners that includes senior Jessica Crannell and juniors Nicole Chombeau and Kristen Francis. Chombeau crosses over to cross country after playing soccer the past two falls.

'Those three all have put in a lot of mileage and are really talented,' Douglas said.

Running close behind is sophomore Mackenzie Magee, who was the team's No. 6 finisher at district last year.

Douglas said junior Lauren Larsen and sophomore Kelly Pullin, who played soccer last year, are the leaders to fill out the Wildcats' top seven at this point.