Lions thinking of another district title run
St. Helens lost many top performers to graduation, but still has possibilities
The St. Helens Lions may not win the district track title this season, but never count them out of the running.
Last year, longtime coach Gerry Tinkle said that on paper St. Helens was a 35-point underdog to win the district title. The Lions pulled off the upset over Wilsonville in monsoon-like conditions.
'Our guys love the rain. We've been out running in it this year and no one complains. Last year our guys just didn't care, we practiced in it and came out on top,' Tinkle said.
The Lions lost some of their top performers to graduation last year, but there are 120 kids out for track this season-70 boys, and 50 girls. Tinkle said they have lost a few kids in the first few days, but have also picked up new ones.
The team suffers a hit with two athletes that may not be able to compete. District runner-up Ryan Byrd probably won't be able to run because of a medical condition. Dumitri Malnasi, a junior, who was the high jump champ and second in the long jump last season and went to state, may have some eligibility issues.
Still, the Lions return a number of participants that will help the team.
Will Lawrence, a junior, comes back in the sprints. He finished fourth in state in the 400 meter run last season, moving up from eighth position in the preliminary events. He also competed at state in the 200 and was on the third-place 4x400 relay team.
Another competitor at state was Alex Lull. The junior competed in the 800.
Tinkle said others expected to contribute include: Kevin Pfau, a senior, in the 1,500; Adrian Lujano, a senior, in the jumps; juniors Jerek Pense and Austin Sandford in the pole vault; and Kyle Robertson, a senior, in the long jump and triple jump.
'I thought we were posed to make another run at the league championship,' Tinkle said, 'but without Bird and Malnasi I'm not sure if we can win it.'
Tinkle sees Rex Putnam, Milwaukie, Sandy and Wilsonville as strong competition. 'Wilsonville is always good. They lost a lot to graduation, but still have a lot coming back that could score. Putnam has a lot back and Sandy is balanced.Milwaukie will do well in the field events.'
The Lions will get a notion of where they are this Thursday, when they host Milwaukie in the first meet of the season. Their next meet after Thursday is at Wilsonville on March 30.
The St. Helens girls have nowhere to go but up this season after finishing last in the district meet last year.
'Last year injuries and all kinds of things happened. The whole bottom fell out last year,' Tinkle said. 'We have a whole bunch of new girls out, not just freshmen, but sophomores. All are excited and all have a great attitude. We'll be much improved, but we won't know what we've got for awhile.'
He said two of his returnees, Jillian Ross, a sophomore, and Jennifer Steinke, a senior, are both looking like they will make strong contributions to the team this season. Haley Twilleager, a junior, could also contribute if she gets over a nagging injury.
'We should finish in the middle of the pack, and that would be a good jump for them,' Tinkle concluded.
Tinkle has a number of long tenured assistants helping him again this year. Among them are Bob Williams, who has been with him the longest going on around 25 years, Jim Crislip who has been with him 12 years, Kyle Wrobleski has been helping 11-12 years, and Pat Logan, who helps with the sprints and jumps, has been around since 1992-19 years.