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Pile of teams race for state

CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW - Reynolds and Barlow boys expected to battle for last spot to Eugene
by: David Ball Barlow’s lead tandem of Jacob Campbell and Jackson Haselnus look to lead the Bruins on a trip to Eugene by the end of the season.

Central Catholic runners have long been the gold standard in Mount Hood Conference cross country, but graduation has taken some of the luster off the Rams crew this fall. That opens the door for a pair of emerging contenders in Reynolds and Barlow to try and steal the crown.

Reynolds has been hot on Central's heels for several years now, never quite managing to get over the top. Last season was the league's best showing at state with the Rams taking second place, while the Raiders finished fourth. Combined the teams packed seven runners into the top 30 at the year's biggest race.

Central Catholic graduated three runners out of that group, and Reynolds also saw a host of their top runners move onto college. That may leave Barlow as this year's team to watch behind the talented tandem of senior Jacob Campbell and junior Jackson Haselnus.

'They're really good together,' Bruins coach Jim Babson said. 'Now, the goal is to get them more focused on beating their opponents instead of focusing on racing each other.'

The Bruins also have solid depth that goes eight or nine deep with seniors Alex Seymour and Auston Burns leading that support group.

'We have a bunch of guys who can rotate through those spots, so if someone has a bad day, there are others who can fill in,' Babson said.

The Barlow girls edged Gresham by a single point in the battle for a state spot last season, and those rivals are expected to see another tight battle this fall. Senior Mandie Maddux leads the team after a top-10 finish at district last year, but the potency of this team is their ability to cloud the trails.

The Bruins supporting pack was separated by only 45 seconds at district last year. Added to that mix is sophomore Leah Norquist, who is solely involved with cross country this season after playing volleyball most of her freshman year. She was the top jayvee finisher last year not wearing a St. Mary's jersey.

Look for our full MHC preview in the Sept. 14 edition of The Outlook.