Lake Oswego's Eric Lider always seems to qualify at least one of his teams for the state track meet. So, don't be surprised if it happens again this year.
This year it's the boys team that probably has the best chance to make it to state. That squad is currently ranked No. 16 in the latest statewide poll, and a top-10 ranking might not be too far away.
There's little question that this year's team will be different than last year's squad, which was led by the front-running Ben Frisbee. Now that Frisbee has graduated, the Lakers will be much more balanced but still very strong.
Leading this year's squad probably will be senior Riley Werner, who finished ninth at last year's district meet. He missed a trip to state by 1.5 seconds.
Also returning from last year's varsity squad are Elijah Greer and Issac Hayden, who finished 15th and 27th, respectively, at the last district meet. Vying for the other top spots on the team will be senior Alex Robinson, junior Chris Caldwell, junior Alex Martin, senior MacAdam Lea, senior Michael Grothe and junior David Byerly.
'We've got some good veterans and some good young ones,' Lider said. 'It's a solid group of eight or nine runners.'
As a team, they're already running faster than they did last year, which should bode well for later in the season. The best news is the race for the district title will be wide open with Lake Oswego, West Linn, Lakeridge, Putnam and Clackamas all running virtually neck-and-neck.
The Lake Oswego girls team, meanwhile, is essentially in a rebuilding mode after losing last year's senior class, which made a habit of qualifying for the state meet.
This year's squad had somewhat of a disappointing showing in the season's first meet at Tualatin. But last week's showing at the Laker Invitational proved to be almost a complete turnaround.
At this point, Lider isn't sure who will wind up on the varsity squad, but Emily Fuller, Viv Gaddis, Shelly Chestler, Lauren Ohlson and Claire Egli are a good bet to take most of those spots.
Also vying for varsity action will be Kathleen Preston, Molly Ponkevitch, Natlie Lampson, Erica Levison, Rachel Modrcin and Maura Throckmorton.
At last weeks' Laker Invitational, the team's top five runners (in order) were Chestler, Ohlson, Preston, Gaddis and Fuller.
It could be hard to knock off Clackamas or West Linn from the top two spots at district, 'but our girls could be pushing for that third spot,' Lider said.
The coach's optimism is based partly on the fact that his runners trained harder during the summer than any of his previous teams. As a result, the team hasn't experienced many of the nagging injuries that often hinder the beginning of each season.
Part of that conditioning success was due to the school's fundraising efforts that allowed the team to purchase some new exercise equipment.
'It's helped a lot,' the coach said. 'We're seeing dividends right now because of a lack of injuries.'
Lider had 69 runners turn out for the team this year. That number, which is an all-time high for the program, is almost evenly divided between the boys and girls teams.
'Now, we have to take two buses to the meets,' Lider quipped.
The extra bodies also forced Lider to hire an extra assistant coach in addition to Todd Goselin, who was already on the staff. The staff now includes Bob Williams, a highly respected distance training coach in the area.