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Forest Grove cross country teams are riding high

Support for Forest Grove's boys and girls cross country teams is reaching a fever pitch after a pair of stellar outings last week.

Forest Grove lost a Pacific Conference meet against Canby last Wednesday, but both the boys and girls races were extremely tight and several Forest Grove runners set school records in the losing effort. The Vikings then followed that up with a nice performance at the Three Course Challenge at Camp Rilea over the weekend.

'What a great weekend,' said Forest Grove head coach Sue Fleskes. 'The weather couldn't have been more perfect and our runners performed so well.'

The Three Course Challenge, hosted annually by Seaside High School, drew 93 teams from five states and featured over 2,000 runners. Forest Grove competed in Division 1, which was for schools with over 1,400 students.

The format went a little something like this: Forest Grove runners drew for which course they would run (two got the easy course, two got the moderate course and three tackled the hard course) and then their seven finishes were added together for a team score.

The Viking boys finished with a score of 181, which Fleskes classified as 'excellent.' Tahoma (Wash.) won the boys Division 1 team title with a score of 106. Crater, which finished fourth, was the top Oregon school with 160 points.

Running the easy course, Justin Marble finished 13th overall in a field of 361 runners. His time was the 7th best among Division 1 runners. Teammate Eric Weinbender finished 22nd overall (12th in Division 1). On the moderate course, Nick Wallace finished 13th overall (9th in Division 1) and Nick Robbins was 20th.

The difficult race featured 503 runners - 5th-best among them was Forest Grove's Josh Seitz, who turned in yet another dazzling performance. He was third among Division 1 runners on the difficult course. Meanwhile, teammate Dusty Klein finished 30th overall and Andy Jerrett was 78th.

On the girls side, Sarah Amina turned in a 16th-place performance on the easy course, while freshman Laura Matzke was 22nd. Danielle Jackson claimed 15th place on the moderate course, with Taylor Walton coming in 90th. Sarah Howe was the top Forest Grove runner on the difficult course, finishing 90th.

Prior to the Three Course Challenge, Forest Grove battled Canby and some dreary weather at Clackamas Community College last Wednesday in a Pacific Conference meet. The girls narrowly lost 26-30, while the boys fell 22-33.

Still, despite the setbacks, Fleskes called the performance 'one of the best meets in our dual meet history.'

Jackson finished second in the girls 5K race, topping her own school record by 28 seconds with a time of 20:24. Matzke also bested her own school record, re-establishing the girls freshman 5K mark with a time of 21:28.

Matzke, Howe, Amina and Aubrey Peters all turned in performances last Wednesday that landed them in the school's all-time Top 25.

The Forest Grove boys turned in a similarly impressive performance as a team, falling to Canby but breaking school records in the process.

Seitz finished second to Canby's Sean Coleman, who is expected to compete for a 6A individual state championship later this fall. Seitz's time of 15:52.15 was six seconds better than the old school record, set by Kellen Peters in 2003.

Forest Grove teammates Marble, Wallace, Klein and Robbins all turned in times that were among the 25 best in school history, and Robbins' mark of 16:44 toppled the 15-year-old boys freshman 5K record, set by R.C. Ritchie.

'The way they were able to run as a pack under those weather conditions showed the strength and depth of this team,' said Fleskes.

Next up for Forest Grove is the team's first and only home meet of the season. The Vikings will host a Pacific Conference meet this afternoon at Anderson Farm. The first race will start at 4:30 p.m.