Most of the contenders for the Class 4A boys tennis championships will compete in the Jesuit Metro State Invitational today and Saturday at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

The top contender is Lincoln. The Cardinals, powered by sophomores Joel Kincaid and Charlie Cutler, finished second in the state last year and have the weapons to score even more points at the meet this year.

'If things work out well for us, we very well could win,' says first-year coach Stu Cutler, Charlie's dad.

Kincaid and Cutler reached the state quarterfinals in singles, and the Cardinals have two doubles teams capable of scoring at state this year. Andy Crooks and Sean Souder, both juniors, and senior MacGregor Madden and junior Brad Bachelder could be the top two doubles teams in the Portland Interscholastic League.

The Jesuit team tournament is one of the highlights of the season for the eight teams involved: Ashland, Beaverton, Lincoln, McKay, North Medford, West Linn, Westview and the host Crusaders. Only West Linn failed to finish in the top eight at state last year.

Each team fields four singles players and four doubles teams, with the seeded players from each team playing a minitournament. The No. 1 players from each school play an eight-player tournament, the No. 4 doubles teams play an eight-team bracket, etc. Coaches like the format because it rewards deeper teams.

'The tournament gives a form for what a dual meet state tournament might look like,' Jesuit coach Jeff Wood says. 'At the state meet, you can win if you have one good singles player and one good doubles team. That's not the case with dual meets.'

Lincoln is the defending champion at the Jesuit tourney.

The Cardinals qualified all four of their doubles teams to state last year, but Westview won both the singles and doubles and that was enough to capture the team title.

Repeating as champion will be tougher for Westview because defending singles champion Brett Joelson, a senior, is still recovering from a broken foot and sophomore Ric Mortera, who was part of the champion doubles team, transferred to Jesuit, where he plays No. 1 singles.

Lincoln has similar injury troubles. Charlie Cutler broke his right wrist at Thanksgiving and is trying to regain his United States Tennis Association ranking. He won't be at the tournament on Saturday because he'll be at a USTA event in Eugene.

Other top players set to compete in the Jesuit tourney include senior Charn Bak of Beaverton, who beat Joelson earlier this season; senior John Bolton of Westview, who was Mortera's doubles partner last season;Êand junior Tyler Wilson of North Medford, a state semifinalist last year.

TRACK: The 39th annual Centennial Invitational is Saturday at Centennial High. As many as 1,100 athletes will compete in the all-day event, which includes a prep track meet from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Lincoln's Mike McGrath will face Grant's Joaquin Chapa in the 800 meters, and Alec Wall of Grant and Galen Rupp of Central Catholic will duel in the 1,500, a race that includes a pair of strong runners from Mead High of Spokane. Benson's Scott Mahr also has some impressive times and may be a factor in this event. In the 3,000, Ryan Vail of Centennial and Caleb Knox of Jesuit will lead the locals against a duo from Mead High who have the top two qualifying times.

Grant sophomore Annaliese Chapa will attempt to win both the girls 800 and 1,500, an extremely difficult double. She has the top times in both events. Patricia Loughlin of Jesuit, Olivia Bender of Cleveland and Anne Murphy-Hagan are among the contenders in the girls 3,000. É Sherena Smith of Benson, among the state leaders in the triple jump and long jump, has signed a letter-of-intent with the University of Nevada, making her the third Techster to sign with a college this school year.

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