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Laker Classic will field some of Oregons top track programs
Coach Eric Lider may be prejudiced about the Laker Track Classic, since he has been around since the first one was held 19 years ago.
But he is absolutely right about this Friday night's nine-school gathering at Lake Oswego High School being a premier event: an intimate, yet high-quality, meet that features some of the finest prep performers in Oregon.
'I would like the community to come out and support track and field,' Lider said. 'Locally, this is about as close to the state meet as you can get. It has a great tradition.
'This is a high caliber meet. Some of the best individuals in the state will be here.'
Track fans should show up if only to witness a battle royal in the 1500 meters between Lake Oswego's Elijah Greer, the defending state champion in the event, and Bryce Burgess of Franklin, the state cross country champion in Class 6A.
Greer has endured some nagging injuries in the early part of the season, but Lider says the junior speedster is ready for the test against Burgess.
Plenty of other champions will also be on hand, such as two-time triple jump champ Rebecca Rhodes of South Salem, who will be challenged by current state leader Trinna Miranda of Southridge.
The boys sprints will be scintillating with Lincoln's Jordan Polk dueling Barlow's Eric Capelle in both the 100 and 200 meters. They are expected to take their rivalry all the way to the wire at the state meet. But Lake Oswego's Micah Hatfield just might be a spoiler.
The girls high jump will be a three-way battle between Megan Hingson of McNary (state 6A runnerup last year), 5A leader Kelly Petaja of Thurston, and Teresa Palmer of Lincoln.
Tauni Powell, the state 5A javelin winner last year, will try to defend her Laker Classic title against McNary's Jessica Mitchell.
There will be much more, too, including some terrific competition in the relay events. Featured will be four of the top five boys 4 by 100 relay teams in the state, along with Southridge and Lincoln in the girls 4 by 100 relay.
Meanwhile, Lider believes many of his Laker tracksters will show up bigtime on Friday. High hurdler James Ratliff has been a medal machine in the early going.
Others set to shine are Tate Murray in the girls 1500 meters (where she was ninth in the state as a freshman last year), Thomas Belesiu in the 400 meters, Paul Hoard in the boys 800, and Lauren Ohlson and Latane Cox in the girls 800, plus excellent relay teams in both the boys and girls divisions.
The Laker boys could be in meet title contention if Curtis Houghton recaptures his top form in the pole vault. The girls also have the depth and talent to contend for team honors.
The nine teams set to compete are Lincoln (defending state champion for both boys and girls), Barlow, Thurston, Tualatin, McNary, Southridge, South Salem, Mountain View, and host Lake Oswego High School.
In addition there will be outstanding individuals entrants from various schools.
'It's going to be very classy,' promised Lider. 'We'll have preliminaries and awards. We think this is a meet a lot of schools want to get into. But we've kept the size down so it won't be a big, honking meet like the one at Centennial.
'To me, a meet like this is what track is all about.'
Action starts at 3:30 p.m. on Friday with field events for both girls and boys. The track portion of the programs starts quickly with the 4 by 100 relay events at 5 p.m.
With so many good teams, the meet title could well come down to the last event, the 4 by 400 relay, starting at 8:55 p.m. for the girls, with the boys starting off 10 minutes later.
As fans fill up on track, they can also fill up on food. The Laker Booster Club will be selling hotdogs, lasagna and other delicious delicacies as a fundraiser.