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Runners take first league meets

More than a week after the fact, West Linn cross-country coach Scott Spear still hasn't seen the final results from last Wednesday's meet against Putnam and Milwaukie. But he really didn't need to see them.

'I just know we beat 'em,' Spear said of his team's efforts. 'It wasn't even close.'

In fact, the meet was so one-sided that the West Linn boys team had eight runners finish before Milwaukie had its second runner cross the finish line; and in the girls race, West Linn had nine runners cross before Milwaukie had two. The degree of separation was almost as great when compared to the Putnam runners.

It was such an easy day for the Lions that Spear instructed team members to run strategic races rather than worrying about out-running everyone. Yet, 45 of 48 West Linn runners (including junior varsity competitors) turned in personal-best times.

It was an impressive achievement when you consider the fact that 40 West Linn runners registered personal-best times just four days before at the New Balance Invitational meet at Western Oregon University.

Amazingly, even with all of those improved times, West Linn had somewhat of a sub-par day at Monmouth, finishing out of the top 10 against a strong field. A top-five finish would have seemed more likely.

'We were not as sharp as we wanted to be (at New Balance),' Spear said. 'It was a good learning experience for (some of them).'

Fearing that his team was beginning to lose its focus, Spear decided a hard workout was needed last Monday and Tuesday's practice (the day before the next meet) wasn't much easier. The approach seemed to achieve the desired effects, because the Lions came back with renewed enthusiasm in the Putnam/Milwaukie meet.

'Fortunately, we had another race real quick (after Saturday) and they jumped right back on the horse,' the coach said.

Few runners, if any, did a better job of jumping 'back on the horse' than junior Taylor Kolasinski, who was West Linn's third-fastest runner in last Wednesday's meet. His finishing time of 17:31 was approximately 30 seconds faster than his previous PR.

The top two spots for the West Linn boys went to Michael Bernert and Ben Morrow, who finished almost side-by-side with times of 16:50 and 16:52.

More importantly, they finished ahead of Putnam's top racer, 'who is a quality runner,' Spear said.

In the girls' race, sophomore Taylor Nowlin was West Linn's top runner despite being sick that day. Rather than run for the lead, Nowlin opted to run with her teammates and finished 46 seconds behind her personal-best time.

The greatest improvement on the girls' side was registered by Diana Crane, who has typically been West Linn's No. 5 to No. 7 runner. But last Wednesday, she was the team's No. 3 finisher.

'That was a real big step,' Spear said.

The biggest improvement, though, was turned in by Shannon Edwards, who went from 23:06 at the New Balance meet to 21:52 last Wednesday. That was an improvement of 1:14.

'She really put it out there,' Spear said of Edwards' improvement.

The coach also was excited about the results from the JV races. The girls race was won by West Linn junior Sarah Chicione, whose time of 22:17 was 37 seconds faster than the next-closest runner. On the boys' side, West Linn sophomores Avi Levy and Steven Boe finished eighth and ninth, respectively, and both were clocked at 19:06.

'They ran a smarter race than anyone,' Spear said of Levy and Boe, noting that the runners hit each of their mile interval times almost on the nose. 'They ran exactly the pace they were supposed to.'

Despite their somewhat disappointing showings at the New Balance meet, the West Linn boys are still ranked No. 12 in the state and the girls are ranked No. 10. Don't be surprised if those numbers improve now that Spear has his runners re-focused on the task at hand.

'We're excited about where we're headed,' the coach said. 'Now we're finding that balance between focus and relaxation.'