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Ryan Byrd flies high at district

St. Helens senior wins district by two strides
by: John Brewington  CLOSE FINISH—St. Helens Ryan Byrd edged longtime rival Aki Kitagawa for first place at the NWOC district cross country meet Wednesday at Blue Lake.

It seemed like déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra once said.

St. Helens' Ryan Byrd and Wilsonville's Akiharu 'Aki' Kitagawa have been doing the same dance for quite awhile and it was no different this time at the Northwest Oregon Conference district cross country meet at Blue Lake Park on Wednesday.

There was Byrd running shoulder to shoulder with Aki for virtually the entire race; only the outcome at this year's district was different.

Last year, Kitagawa cut off a piece of the course a couple of hundred yards before the finish and beat Byrd by about 20 yards.

The course deficiency was corrected with flags by a preview meet early this year. Byrd and Kitagawa ran neck and neck that entire race, but Byrd would win by a step or two at the finish.

Byrd wasn't given much of a chance to win district this time, though. He'd been sick with a 102-degree temperature on Monday. St. Helens assistant coaches along the course were yelling for him to take a lead with about 500 yards to go. He didn't. The coaches felt that Kitagawa, with a lot of 800-meter race experience, would outkick Byrd at the end.

That wasn't to be either. With about 70 yards remaining, Byrd determinedly stretched his long legs and pulled in front and would end up winning by 2-3 strides.

'I feel phenomenal right now,' the very happy and not-sick-looking-at-all race winner said. 'It almost felt too easy.'

After the early-season race win on the same course, Byrd didn't want to talk about revenge from the previous year's district. He knew Wednesday's meet still had to be run and a lot can happen along the way.

When asked where he wanted to finish at state, he held up one finger (an index finger). 'There are three or four guys listed ahead of me,' he said and ticked off their names. Travis Neuman, Alex Dillard, Jackson Baker and Eric Alldritt are listed ahead of him on the stat sheets, but the latter two only by a few seconds. Everything is possible.

'Ryan, under orders, ran a conservative race plan,' St. Helens coach Gerry Tinkle said. 'I didn't want him to go out too fast and die in case he was still feeling the effects of being sick. His best bet was to run with Aki and outkick him at the end. He did just that.'

Tinkle was proud of the overall effort-second place and a trip to the state meet. 'My boys ran well but still came up short against Wilsonville. Alex Lull (6th) had his best race of the year, as did Will (Lawrence, 8th). Our underclassmen came through too,' he said.

Sophomore Bryan Strang was 15th, while junior David Sumsion was 17th. Junior Nathan Reed finished 21st.

The St. Helens girls didn't have their best outcome of the season, but ran pretty well. Sophomore Cynthia Fenrich led the contingent with a 12th place finish.

'On the girls side,' Tinkle said, 'we fell short of our goal. Our fifth runner had a bad race. It was still a good showing for us and a big improvement over last year and a step forward to an even better year next season.'

Byrd and the rest of the Lions' varsity will run at the 5A state meet this Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.

St. Helens Results:

Boys

Team scores: Wilsonville 27, St. Helens 47, Sandy 107, Milwaukie 117, Rex Putnam 119, Sherwood 129, Liberty 205, Parkrose 205.

Varsity Individuals: 1) Ryan Byrd, 16:04; 6) Alex Lull, 16:48, 8) Will Lawrence, 16:56; 15) Bryan Strang, 17:24; 17) David Sumsion, 17:28; 21) Nathan Reed, 17:39; 23) Micah Pletsch, 17:43.

Jayvees: 5) Brandon Underwood, 18:34; 17) Fuller Worman, 19:14; 42) Michael Jauron, 20:14; 44) Eliazar, 20:28; 51) Michael Dorry, 21:02; 58) Logan Fox, 21:18.

Girls

Team scores: Milwaukie 48, Sherwood 52, Wilsonville 82, Sandy 101, Putnam 110, St. Helens 144, Liberty 145, Parkrose, inc.

Varsity Individuals: 12) Cynthia Fenrich, 21:12; 28) Michael Munger, 22:35; 29) Alyna Habel, 22:46; 32) Megan Waite, 23:12; 43) Stephanie Pfau, 24:28; 44) Taylor Steeves, 24:29.

Jayvees: 29) Kiana Pense, 24:32; 32) Johanna Parkhurst, 25:10; 42) Lauren Chambers, 26;15; 46) Melanie Naillon, 26:40; 47) Brittney Bartolomucci, 26:45; 53) M'Kenzie Brookes; 54) Nivea Plasabas, 27:57.