Flying under the radar can sometimes be a good thing, but not when you're trying to get noticed.
Going unnoticed has been a long-running problem for sports teams at Westside Christian, a 3A school located on Carman Drive in Lake Oswego. But it would be hard to ignore what Westside's cross-country teams have accomplished recently.
Under the direction of head coach Scott Ball, the Westside boys team finished second and the girls took third in the 3A/2A/1A division at the state cross-country meet that was held last Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Last year, both teams finished third at the state and the year before the boys team was fourth.
'It's been a nice progression,' Ball admitted after returning home with his team.
After the boys finished fourth, third and then second, the next step in that line of progression would a state championship at next year's meet. However, Ball isn't ready yet to put that much pressure on his team.
And winning the crown this year would have been next to impossible because of the prowess of the Catlin Gabel team that took first. Catlin Gabel had 88 points while Westside Christian had 132.
In fact, Ball's team would have been happy with fourth place last Saturday, especially after they lost to third-place McKenzie and fourth-place Oakridge during the regular season. After those losses, Ball expected McKenzie and Oakridge to challenge Catlin Gabel for the state title.
But the McKenzie and Oakridge runners didn't perform as well as expected. The Westside Eagles, on the other hand, turned in possibly their best collective performance of the season.
Leading the way for Westside was Daniel Friesen, who finished fourth overall with a time of 16:42. That represented the school's best mark ever at the state meet. In the process, Friesen also qualified for the Border Clash, which pits the top runners from Oregon against the top runners from Washington.
Next on the list for Westside Christian was David Jeffery, who 'ran the race of his life,' according to Ball.
Jeffery had run the Lane Community College course five times before and his best previous mark was 18:04. This time, though, he turned in a time of 17:58 and he did it in less than ideal conditions.
Also scoring points for the Westside boys were Josh Campbell (who finished 29th with a time of 18:02), Brandon Bray (44th, 18:08) and Austen Paul (89th, 19:35).
'For the most part, our guys ran really well,' said Ball, who has been Westside's coach for the last six years.
Conceivably, the Westside girls could have finished second as well. But team leader Abigail King, who was expected to finish among the top six, fell two times and finished 14th overall with a time 20:46.
'It was just sad to watch,' Ball said. 'We felt for her.'
Despite King's disappointment, she still managed to recently land a track and cross-country scholarship at the University of Portland. That makes King the first-ever Westside athlete to receive a Division-I scholarship, Ball said.
King was followed by Margaret Hanscom, who finished 42nd with a time of 22:10. Next was Aimi Wallberg, a full-time volleyball player, who finished 47th with a time of a 22:17. 'She ran the best race she could possibly run,' Ball said of Wallberg, who was limited to three cross-country meets before competing in the state meet.
The week before at the district meet, Wallberg turned in a 23:07 time on a Clackamas Community College course that is much easier than the Lane course where state was held. Then, at state, Wallberg beat her district time by almost a full minute.
Since Westside has a deep squad, with its third through seventh runners almost equally matched, Ball was able to take some of the pressure off of Wallberg.
'We told her to go ahead and take a risk by going out fast, and it worked for her,' the coach said.
Paige Landsem was Westside's No. 4 runner while finishing 53rd with a time of 22:33. She was closely followed by Anna Reif, a full-time soccer player, who was 54th with a time of 22:34.
Also on hand for the state meet in Eugene were a trio of Lake Oswego High School runners and the entire boys team from Lakeridge.
The Lake Oswego boys, who came within an eyelash for qualifying their entire team for state, had two entries last Saturday. Leading the way was Elijah Greer, who finished 28th overall with a time of 16:44.
It wasn't as well as Greer had hoped to run, but at least he didn't have to stop and put his shoe back on like he did at the district meet the week before. During that district meet, Greer had a shoe partially slip off his foot during the first 400 meters of the race.
Greer had little choice but to stop and put the shoe back on. But, as he did so, the entire field passed him almost in an instant. But Greer didn't stay in last place for long. He slowly started picking off one runner after another and wound up in seventh place.
'When something like that happens, you have to remain calm and catch up slowly,' Lake Oswego coach Eric Lider said. 'He was guessing on how to do that. That's not something that we work on.'
Greer and Werner had spent most of the season taking turns being the team leader. Werner began garnering attention when he set Lake Oswego's course record early in the season. Two weeks later, Greer set the course record at Forest Grove, 'which is a killer course,' Lider said.
Last Saturday, Greer and Werner were on another killer course for the state meet. This time, Greer came out ahead. Werner, who won the district title the week before, apparently wanted to keep on running indefinitely.
'He was bummed that the season was over,' Lider said.
In fact, almost everyone on the team said 'the season was too short,' the coach added.
Lake Oswego's lone represented on the girls' side was Shelley Chestler, although it was initially thought that Lauren Ohlson had also qualified for state. So, without a partner to run with, Chestler wound up in 48th place with a time of 20:29. But she wasn't upset with her performance.
'Shelley was the most pleased (among the Lakers' three runners),' Lider said. 'She wanted to be in the top 50 and that's about where she should have finished … so it was a great experience for her.'
Lider attributed some of Chestler's success to her work at Sports Lab, an athletic training facility in Portland. She was one of four Lake Oswego girls and two boys that went through the Sports Lab program last summer.
For the most part, 'those kids really stayed injury free,' Lider said. It was Chestler's first injury-free season, the coach added.
Chestler was not the team's fastest runner coming into preseason training in August, but she made up a lot of ground in a short time. 'We said, 'Shelley, we think you can go faster.' It was really that simple,' Lider said. '(But) there was that vision and motivation that she could be with the leaders.'
Despite having only three runners in the state, Lider took his entire team to Eugene. Typically, teams stay in hotels in Eugene the night before but there weren't any rooms available for last weekend. So, Lider loaded everyone onto a bus early Saturday and made the trek south on the day of the meet.
It turned out to be a long day, though, as the team left Lake Oswego at 5 p.m. and returned at 9 p.m. after getting caught in a major Interstate 5 traffic jam that was created by the University of Oregon and Oregon State football games.
Also competing at state was Lakeridge's boys team, which consisted of Alex Anderson, Andrew Balter, Cole Flora, Dave Marks, Rishi Rihki, Robbie Magill and Scott Marek. The team finished 11th in a 14-team field. The Pacers' leading placer was Anderson, who 51st with a time of 17:11.