District meet double

Forest Grove's cross country teams roll to a clean sweep at the district championships

Sue Fleskes got just about the best birthday present a coach could ever ask for last Thursday.

'I had told the kids the only thing I really want for my birthday is to get two teams to state,' said Fleskes, the longtime cross country coach at Forest Grove High School.

On her 65th birthday, Fleskes's wish came true - and then some.

The Forest Grove boys and girls cross country teams both locked up titles at the Pacific Conference district meet last week, staged at Clackamas Community College, and Tyler Shipley added an individual title in the boys race. With the victories, both squads advanced to the OSAA Class 6A state meet, which will take place this Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.

The result was an unprecedented outcome for the Vikings.

'It was really historic for the program,' said Fleskes, now in her 19th season as head coach. 'We'd only won the district championship for the boys one other time, in 2009, and we've never (won) for the girls.'

In fact, prior to Thursday, not only had the Forest Grove girls never won at the district meet, they had never even qualified for state as a team, according to Fleskes.

But the Lady Vikings put that streak to rest in convincing fashion on Thursday, rolling to the district title by scoring 45 points to Newberg's 63 and defending champion Tualatin's 67. Forest Grove placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 14, and all five had finished before any other team's fourth runner had crossed the line.

Leading the way for the girls - as she has done for much of the season - junior Elena Torry-Schrag finished in third place overall, covering the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 37 seconds. The Tualatin tandem of Kristin Coffman and Alexandria Cross took the top two spots, in 19:10 and 19:24, respectively.

'A 29-second (personal record) at a meet like that is huge,' Fleskes said of Torry-Schrag, whose district mark ranks 10th all-time in Forest Grove history.

Senior Olivia Masek-McIntosh was not far behind, placing fifth in 19:52 - 91 seconds faster and 25 places better than her 2010 district meet performance. Rubi Vergara-Grindell, a freshman competing in her first district meet, was 10th in 20:31, and sophomore Emilia Anderson was 13th in 20:49. Rounding out the Forest Grove scorers, Suly Rosales-Moreno - a senior out for her first season of cross country - took 14th in 20:50.

Julia Khoury (26th, 21:38) and Tacey Smith (33, 22:01), also ran in the varsity race and will compete at the state meet on Saturday.

'Our girls just haven't had a bad race all season,' Fleskes noted. 'Whether it's been on hills, grass, rain, clear - they just have stepped up every single meet.'

The Viking boys dominated their field in similar fashion, scoring 42 points to win a district meet championship. Tualatin claimed the conference's other berth to state by finishing second with 73 points, and Tigard was third with 88.

Shipley and sophomore Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski executed their race plan to perfection on the way to a one-two finish. Fleskes said the goal was to go out hard and break the other contenders before the third mile.

'It worked out perfectly,' Fleskes said. 'It was exactly as we had planned.'

With the win, in 15:58, Shipley continued his steady senior season and became the third Forest Grove boy to win an individual district title, joining Kellen Peters (2004) and Eric Weinbender (2007). Lizier-Zmudzinski, a sophomore who also plays for the Viking soccer team, finished in 16:02.

Matching their female counterparts, the Viking boys showed their depth by putting five runners acrossbefore any other team's fourth. James McCahon (eighth, 16:49), Michael Garcia (14th, 17:00) and C.J. Johnson (17th, 17:08) rounded out the scoring for Forest Grove.

Two freshmen, Seth Berdahl (23rd, 17:22) and Camden Kennedy (33rd, 17:44) filled out the varsity lineup, though Connor Pitt - who won the junior varsity race in 17:25 - will replace Kennedy at state, per team policy.

On Saturday, the Class 6A races will conclude the state meet, and the Vikings can put their final stamp on what has been a superlative season. The girls race is scheduled to begin at 2:25

p.m., and the boys race will follow 35 minutes later.

'I wouldn't change a thing about anything that has happened all season, not our schedule, not what we had to have them do for workouts,' Fleskes said. 'I just felt like they were really ready. And usually, I'm ... nervous before districts, and I was more excited this year than nervous.

'I was excited to get it going because I just really felt like they were prepared physically and mentally. And sure enough, they were.'