Cross country teams wrap up regular seasons well
Next week's district meet is expected to be another barnburner with a handful of teams jockeying for one of the league's two team berths at state.
The boys race is expected to be exceedingly close as Grant, Lakeridge and Lake Oswego have been narrowly separated all year long.
The Lakeridge boys are coming off of a seventh place finish at the Concordia Classic over the weekend, finishing second among Oregon 6A teams.
The meet was highlighted by Mubark Mebrat's career-best showing. He cracked the 16-minute barrier for the first time and took 21st overall.
Julian Heninger was next for the Pacers in 60th while Colton Ansberry and Alec Koh finished back-to-back, just one second apart.
Lakeridge's top-four has been solid all year but the Pacers have also benefited from the emergence of a strong fifth runner.
"What's really helped us is how Kevin Mertz has developed. He's really starting to come on strong," Lakeridge coach Ken James said.
Mertz also ran a career-best time at Concordia and he may be a key to the Pacers' chances of advancing to state again this year.
"It's probably going to be three teams for two spots. The good thing for us is that everyone on our team has been there before," James said.
The Lake Oswego boys are also eyeing a trip to state.
At Concordia, Nathan Normo also finished under 16 minutes for the first time in his career and has been running very well leading up to the district meet.
Todd Macdonald finished in the top 50 and had his best race of the year.
Lake Oswego ran without its Nos. 3 and 4 runners in Jared Bell and Philip Kearns but Laker coach Eric Lider believes that, at full strength, the Lakers should make a legitimate run at a top-two finish in league.
"It's definitely going to be a dogfight. Todd is due to break out and Jared's a gamer. Last year he surprised everyone," Lider said.
For the girls, Lakeridge's Kelly O'Neill has been steadily getting faster all season long and James feels that she's in the best shape of her high school career.
O'Neill set a PR by 20 seconds at Concordia and should be primed to take on the state's best over the next few weeks.
"We knew she was set up to go pretty fast and, at practice, she's gone even faster," James said. Currently O'Neill has the fifth fastest time in the state.
As a team, the Lakeridge girls also hope to make it to state.
Lia Newman has been one of the team's most consistent runners all year and with Madeline Hummel back from an injury, the team should be close to full strength next week.
Aubrey Larson, Lea Zawada and Laura Suzuki have all been running well of late too.
Zawada shattered her previous career-best time at Concordia while Suzuki and Larson each ran their best times of the year.
"We know Kelly and Lia will be our two frontrunners and if our 3, 4 and 5 girls break up the other teams we should be in really good shape," James said.
For Lake Oswego the season has already been a success over last year. Tatum Johnson led the Lakers at Concordia with a career-best time along with Becca Miles.
Shae Vallaire will look to qualify individually for the Lakers as she currently has the eighth best time in the district.
The district meet will be held next Wednesday at Clackamas Community College.