Staying healthy seems to be the biggest obstacle facing West Linn's two cross-country teams this fall.

'We've still got the team illness,' coach Scott Spear said jokingly after his squads split a pair of dual meets with Lakeridge last week.

'About 90 percent of the team has the crud,' Spear said, referring to the virus that seems to visit every sports team about this time of year.

But this year seems to be worse than before.

'It's just one of those things that won't go away,' the coach added.

Spear refused to use the illnesses as a reason for last week's loss, which the boys team suffered against a surprisingly strong Lakeridge squad.

'They still competed as hard as they could,' the coach said of his team. '… And they know they've got more in them.'

Despite being under the weather, the West Linn boys didn't perform poorly. As expected juniors Ben Morrow and Michael Bernert were close to the front of the pack. Morrow took second place with a time of 17:12 and trailed the race winner, Lakeridge's Dave Marks, by only six seconds. Bernert was fourth with a time of 17:40.

Rounding out the Lions' scoring fivesome were Neil Rajput (with a time of 17:55), Charlie Lammers (18:17) and Taylor Kolasinski (18:24). And just two seconds behind Kolasinski was teammate Brandon LaDick.

Nobody in that group turned in a personal record against Lakeridge, but that wasn't too surprising considering the grip the virus had on everyone. And there's no concern that last week's 'down' week put the team's training behind schedule.

'They're not where they want to be,' Spear said of his runners. 'But they're not worried about it … They'll be ready for districts.'

Meanwhile, the West Linn girls team scored an unbelievably easy victory over Lakeridge last week. It really didn't seem to matter that it should have been an 'off' day for everyone.

So dominating were the girls that eight of them crossed the finish line before the second Lakeridge competitor managed to do so.

'And we had some girls who were sick,' Spear noted.

Considering the circumstances, Spear wasn't expecting many people to record a PR.

'We still ran hard but we didn't go ballistic,' the coach said.

Team leader Taylor Nowlin won the race, but most of her competition came not from Lakeridge or her teammates but from Tualatin, which also ran in the meet but competed only against league rival McMinnville.

Tualatin has one of the top-ranked teams in the state and it was easy to see why last Wednesday. After Nowlin crossed the finish line, the Timberwolves claimed the next seven spots.

It was a close race between Nowlin and Tualatin freshman Emily Wheeler. In fact, they were virtually step for step with each other with one mile remaining.

'Then, (Nowlin) just put the hammer down. It was a great race,' Spear said.

Nowlin wound up winning the race by 26 seconds - 20:01 to 20:27.

West Linn's No. 2 racer, and ninth overall, was Rachel Seigneur, who might have moved up the team's depth chart with her performance.

'It was a great race for her, especially after coming off an illness,' the coach said.

The team's other runners, in order, were Diana Crane (10th place), Kristi Pace (13th), Kathryn Flyte (14th), Natalie Pittenger (15th) and Whitney Harmon (17th).

Pace earned her No. 4 spot on the team with a personal record time of 22:19. Her performance put her in the team's top five for the first time ever. Her previous best was the No. 7 spot at the Tillamook Invitational earlier in the season.

'She's been working out great the last couple of weeks,' Spear said of Pace.

Both of West Linn's teams will now gear up for the stretch run of the season, and things certainly won't get any easier the rest of the way.

For starters, the Lions will compete this Saturday in a 100-team invitational meet at Blue Lake Park in Gresham. Then, there's a meet next week against Lake Oswego, which is ranked 10th in the state on the boys side.

The following week the Lions will meet Clackamas, which had both of its teams ranked at one point this season. Then the district meet is the following Wednesday.

'We're kind of in that time when we've got to make a big move,' Spear said.

Hopefully, everyone's virus will have disappeared by then.

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