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Forest Grove craves more state meet success

For Scott McCahon, qualifying athletes for the state track and field championships just isn't enough anymore.

For Scott McCahon, qualifying athletes for the state track and field championships just isn't enough anymore.

He's been there and done that. In his fifth year coaching Forest Grove's boys and girls track and field teams, McCahon wants a culture of winning to take root with the Vikings.

'The goal in our program is to qualify for state and then, when you get there, perform,' McCahon said. '[Our athletes] are starting to go down there and start competing. We want them to perform, not just be happy with, 'Well, I'm a state qualifier.'

'You're seeing a change now that they're going down there and they want to compete.'

Forest Grove has a lot to replace from its state qualifying boys' side, including Nick Robbins, a three-time state qualifier who finished eighth in both the 800- and 1,500-meter runs at last year's state championships.

The girls team loses Laura Matzke, who finished 11th in the 3,000-meter run at last year's state track meet, and Taylor McCahon, who won a state championship in the pole vault last season.

'We've got to fill those gaps,' Scott McCahon said. 'We've got some young kids who we just don't know what they're going to end up doing yet.'

Each team has one returning state qualifier. Senior Kristi Vandebergh placed ninth in last year's girls shot put, and senior Anthony Huffman placed third in the boys pole vault at state.

Both the boys and girls teams will be attempting to improve on state finishes of 27th and 21st places, respectively.

'This year we're strong in the girls throws,' McCahon said. 'Our sprinters and our jumps are strong. For the boys we've got the vault, the triple jump and the long jump [as our top events].'

Leading the charge is a small but talented group of seniors with experience at the state track meet. Those athletes - led by Huffman and VandeBergh, who were elected team captains - will help instill a winning mentality among a roster of 174 athletes, including 45 freshman.

The Vikings began those efforts March 17 against Union High School from Camas, Wash. Several Forest Grove athletes won their events and posted times that show promise for later in the season.

Numerous freshmen and sophomores got experience in the meet at the varsity level. Senior Carson Kennedy won the 200-meter dash on the boys side. Junior Tyler Shipley placed third at 1,500 meters and second at 3,000 meters, and Huffman won both the pole vault and triple jump.

On the girls' side, senior Eredi Pintor won the 3,000-meter run in blowout fashion, beating her closest competitor by more than a minute. Kristi VandeBergh won the shot put and discus, and Keri VandeBergh won the javelin throw.

McCahon said other athletes will need to step up this season, including his son, junior James McCahon, in the hurdles and freshman Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski, who placed fourth in the 1,500-meter run.

The Vikings do not have an easy road to the state track meet and will need to fill holes in their team as the season progresses. State qualifications are earned through a tough conference track meet that will feature several strong schools, including defending boys 6A champion Tigard.

'We do not have that premier sprinter who's going to walk onto the track and win the 100- and 200,' McCahon said. 'We've got good 400-[meter runners] and on up, and we're developing some athletes.'

The Vikings next compete at the Wilsonville Rotary Track Invitational on April 2.