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LHS, LO rule at district meet

by: VERN UYETAKE Kelly O’Neill, pictured, and Lia Newman finished 1-2 at last week’s district meet. The Lakeridge girls took second as a team to earn a state berth as well. O’Neill has the fifth fastest time in the state heading into the race.

It was a good day for the city of Lake Oswego at last week's district cross country meet.

The Lakeridge boys and girls each qualified for state with the Pacer boys winning the district title and the Lake Oswego boys took second, also earning a trip to state.

The boys competition figured to be wide open individually and a three-team dogfight for those two trips to state.

It turned out to be a four-team race as Oregon City ran exceptionally well to finish just behind Grant but the Pacers and Lakers were simply too strong, claiming five of the top six spots combined.

Lake Oswego placed three runners in the top six.

The Lakers' Nate Normo and Todd Macdonald wanted to set the tone early by going out quickly.

They were joined by teammate Jared Bell who kept up the pace, staying right with them, putting together another extremely impressive district meet.

Normo challenged for the district title but Grant's Andre Walker out-kicked him down the stretch, edging out Normo by just three seconds.

"I wanted to go a little faster but I'm satisfied with how I finished. I knew I wanted to be up with the leaders and keep a consistent pace. The last 800 meters was tough," Normo said.

Next came Lakeridge's Julian Heninger who just edged out Macdonald.

"I went a little sooner than I had hoped and Nate and Andre were able to hang in there. It was a battle in that last 800," Heninger said.

Mubark Mebrat finished just a second behind Macdonald and Bell crossed the line in an impressive sixth place, shattering his previous best time.

Putting that many runners at the top of the pack made life difficult for the other teams looking to earn trips to state.

The Pacers' Colton Ansberry and Alec Koh finished back-to-back in 12th and 13th place respectively and Kevin Mertz rounded out the team's scoring, taking 22nd.

That gave Lakeridge 55 points, enough to hold off Lake Oswego for the team title.

But the Lakers did more than enough to clinch a spot at state.

Phillip Kearns had a strong race, finishing in 20th overall while Matt Agritelley took 29th as the Lakers' No. 5 runner.

Both Lakeridge and Lake Oswego will look to trophy as they head to Eugene this Saturday for the state meet at Lane Community College.

"We like to finish between the top five and top 10. It's a team effort but when you have three guys who can run like ours, there's a lot that can happen," Lake Oswego coach Eric Lider said.

There was less excitement in the girls meet as Lakeridge's Kelly O'Neill quickly and efficiently locked up another district title.

O'Neill went out quickly and was running by herself for most of the race, finishing in 18:21, narrowly missing her goal of breaking the district record.

"I was aiming for it. I just tried to hit my marks and get into a rhythm," O'Neill said.

Heading into this week's state meet, O'Neill has the fifth fastest time in the state and is hoping to put together a top-five finish this year.

"I want to get back on the podium and I'm going to try and break 18 minutes," O'Neill said.

She will be joined by her teammates this year as the Pacers easily finished in second behind a powerful Grant squad.

O'Neill finished more than a minute before her closest competitor and that person turned out to be teammate Lia Newman.

Newman also had a terrific race, running by herself for much of the time as well to take second place by more than 12 seconds.

Laura Suzuki turned in a PR for the Pacers, cracking 21 minutes by one hundredth of a second. She was followed closely by Lea Zawada and Madeline Hummel who each ran PRs.

For Lake Oswego, the team was missing its No. 1 and No. 4 runner for the meet due to injury and sickness but still put up strong times.

Becca Miles had a breakout race, taking 13th with a PR and narrowly missing an individual berth at state.

Tatum Johnson also ran exceptionally well, cracking the top-20 with a 17th place showing.

"Our girls team could be very, very good in a few years," Lider said.

The 6A state meet will begin at 2 p.m. this Saturday at Lane Community College.