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St. Helens girls will be in track title tussle; boys will improve over season

Lions aren't thinking state title this season
by: John Brewington, High jumper Candace Loyd will be one of the team leaders for the Lady Lions this spring. Loyd took seventh in state last year in the high jump. She had a little hair tangle problem during practice here.

This will be a little bit different year for the St. Helens High track teams; it pretty much had to be.

The boys' team has to rebound from the loss of an elite group of athletes. The girls, however, are back stronger than last season and should be league title contenders.

The Lions are coming off a year that saw them win the first 5A state boys track championship last season in coach Gerry Tinkle's 25th year.

Last year's title was a heady and emotional experience for the team. Carson Bartlett led the Lions to the crown with two firsts (long jump and triple jump), a second (high jump) and ran on the third-place 4x100 relay team. He received an award as the top individual performer. Nic Barnes, Ron Walters, Kevin Elder, Cody Jones, Knight Yabut, Griff Curtis and Casey Smith all contributed to the title triumph. Bartlett holds school records in the high jump and triple jump, while Barnes is the record holder in the high hurdles. Those two are joined with Walters and Jones for the record in the 4x100 relay.

Of those athletes, only Jones returns this season.

Tinkle has seen many teams come and go, and he knows it's cyclical. 'The boys' team will be very young this season. When you have a team as strong and as senior heavy as we were last year, the younger athletes don't have to step up. So we are left with a team that will get better and better as the season progresses.'

In addition to Jones, a sprinter, the Lions do have experience in throwers in Drew Hamm, Andrew Osborn and Ryan Etchison in the shot and discus. 'The young guys are going to have to step up,' Tinkles reiterated. 'We'll improve as the season progresses.'

The girls finished 24th in the state meet last season, and were fourth at district behind Hillsboro, Wilsonville, and Liberty. They have their sights set a bit higher this season.

Top athletes returning for the team include Haley Ricker, Candace Loyd, Alisha Haresnape, Kiana Saluni and Brooke Nolte. Ricker and Nolte were part of the 4x100 relay team that took third in state last season. Emily Higgins and Molly Bailey graduated.

Loyd was second in the district in the high jump and made the finals in the state competition, taking seventh.

Haresnape proved a surprise in the district cross country meet last season, taking second overall. She'll be a strong contributor in the distance races.

Saluni will lead the Lady Lions' throwers in the shot, discus, and javelin.

The Lady Lions were young overall last season and should be even more competitive this year. 'On the girls' side,' Tinkle said, 'we should be very strong and challenge Wilsonville and Glencoe for the league title.'

The Lions kick off their season at the Polar Classic at Westview High School on Wednesday. On Thursday, March 20, they travel to Sherwood for a league meet, and then have a break from competition until April 2 when they travel to Hillsboro. The first home meet for the Lions is April 9 when they host Liberty. St. Helens hosts district this year, May 14 and 16.