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Talent runs deep for Laker track teams

by: File Photo / Vern Uyetake, 
Lake Oswego’s Brandon Akerman expects to be one of the top shot-putters in the Three Rivers League this year and is one of a large number of Laker athletes that should shine during this track season.

Eric Lider's smile gives him away when talking about the prospects for his Lake Oswego High School track teams this year.

After nearly 30 years of coaching the Laker spikers, Lider knows better than to climb out on any limbs when it comes to forecasting future success.

But Lider can't help but grin because he sees talent everywhere on his 2008 team - boys and girls, running, jumping and weight events.

Lake Oswego had a nice season in 2007, with both squads taking fourth at district. But it may have been just a warmup for what they will do this spring.

'We have enough talent to move up, even though we're in a real good district,' said Lider, Laker track boss since 1980. 'I'm very positive about our chances.'

There's another positive factor, too. This year the Lakers' will have stability with their training facilities.

'There was construction going on last year, and we had to move our weight events to another area,' Lider said. 'That completely put a brake on our rhythm in the weight throwing events.'

Of course, it's nice to anchor your team around a returning state champion, and the Lakers can do that with Elijah Greer, who won the 1,500 meters last season.

'Elijah is a versatile guy,' Lider said. 'He's a real gifted kid who can run fast. He can run anything from the 400 meters to the 3000.'

The junior speedster recently showed he is primed for a special 2008 season by running a sizzling 1:52.66 in the 800 meters at the Husky Classic at the University of Washington, running against collegiate runners.

That is the best prep time in the indoor 800 this season.

Greer would be enough to make Lider smile, but there is so much more.

James Ratliffe was another state qualifier last year, taking third in the 300-meter high hurdles. He is also one of two returning members of a very quick 1600-meter relay team.

Other Lakers with the potential to score highly at district include Curtis Houghton, who won the district pole vault championship as a sophomore and could also shine in other events; distance runners Alex Martin and Chris Cardwell, who should place well in the 1500 and 3000 at district; rapidly improving discus thrower Jimmy Jacobson; hurdler Micah Hatfield; Brandon Akerman in the shot-put; and high jumper Austin Snell.

Other promising athletes are Chris Madden, Steven Britton, Andrew Croy, Paul Hoard, Sean Johnson, Chris Luetjen, and Joel Minugh.

Lider likes his girls team just as much, especially the distance runners. Tate Murray placed ninth at state in the 1500 in '07. Latane Cox placed second in the district cross-country meet and has a chance to be a force as a freshman. Making LO even stronger in the distance events are Shelley Chestler, Lauren Ohlson and Aly Steinbacher.

'Our girl distance runners are awesome,' Lider said. 'Five or six of them have run under 5 minutes in the 1500.'

Gabi d'Amato leads a pole vault contingent that Lider really likes, while Jacqui Wallis gives the team a potential district champion in the 400 meters. Last year she was second in district and ninth at state. Plenty of points in the sprints should come from Mady Johnson and Kate Mogentale. Versatile Gina Contolini should score in the long jump, triple jump and pole vault.

Lider has some fine javelin throwers in Melanie Overall and Becca Hodges. Jillian Fagan has good potential in the hurdles.

Other girls who could make an impact are Jenny Ballinger, Lauren Forward, Emily Gaddis, Emily Hoard, Madison Keele, Cali Reis, Andrea Ryder, Taylor Teed, Erin Yaylali, and Morgan McGuire.

These are the kind of athletes that should keep Lider smiling all season.

'We have good sprinters, our buzz in the field events is really good,' Lider said. 'I'm already seeing huge impact in the field events from being able to practice back on our home field.

'We'll be good.'

Maybe very, very good.

Lake Oswego took on West Linn on Wednesday but results were not available at press time.