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Valiants running on toward district

by: JONATHAN HOUSE, CATCHING AIR — Valley Catholic’s Mason Dunlop takes off during the triple jump last week.

BEAVERTON - The times they are a droppin' and the marks are improving.

It's getting closer to crunch time for the Valley Catholic boys track team, which geared up for the upcoming West Valley League district meet with a pair of competitions last week.

The Valiants took third (second among league foes) in its host meet Thursday, then headed to Willamette University in Salem for Saturday's Meet of Champions, which showcased some of the state's top Class 1A through 4A talent.

Junior Alex Larson was VC's top finisher in both meets. He cleared 11 feet to win the pole vault competition Thursday at Valley Catholic then drew closer to the school record by topping 12 feet on Saturday to take third.

That mark, which is tops in the league, was a personal best by a foot and made more impressive considering Larson wasn't originally in the competition but a late addition after others dropped out prior to the meet.

'I'm using a new pole and starting to get it under control,' Larson said. 'I haven't completed the top part and there's another foot left on top (of the pole).'

Larson also lowered his own school record in the 300 interemediate hurdles Saturday, taking fifth in 42.63 seconds to beat the time he set earlier this year.

'I looked at it (the record) at the beginning of the year as a possibility to break,' Larson said. 'As the season progressed, I forgot about it until I broke it.'

Larson's knocked nearly two seconds off his previous best this spring but knows he'll likely need to drop even further to make state. He took third in Thursday's meet and has the No. 3 time in the league for 2008 - fifth-best in Class 3A. The top-2 placers at the district meet advance to state plus those that hit the qualifying time of 42.4.

'I think I could drop it a bit more,' larson said. 'Every time I hit a hurdle and stumble a little bit. If I can run a clean race, I hope I can qualify for state.'

Senior Brooks Feldman also has the state meet in his sights. Feldman has run the league's No. 2 time in both the 1,500 (4:21.71) and 3,000 (9:38.20) this season. Both are personal bests and the third-best times in Class 3A. Feldman ran the 800 on Thursday, taking second in 2:07.68. He set his PR in taking eighth in the 1500 on Saturday.

Feldman is hoping to avoid a repeat of 2007 when Westside Christian's David Jeffery came into the district meet as the No. 3 seed in the 3,000, but edged Feldman for the final state spot. Jeffrey again has the third-best time this year.

'I definitely want to get to state in the 3,000,' Feldman said. 'Westside Christian kind of muscled me out last year. It's the same situation this year. His times aren't as good, but I can't count him out.'

Feldman has shaved more than five seconds off his personal best in the 1,500 and feels he can drop more in both races at district.

'Usually my overall PR doesn't happen until district,' he said. 'I always seem to do well there. I don't have to double up in the 1,500 and 3,000 because they're on different days.'

The Valiants have also enjoyed a strong season from senior Nick Raulino, who has made dramatic improvements across the board. Raulino was second in the long jump (19-4) and third in the 100 (12.06) in Thursday's meet then ran the 400 on Saturday, placing 8th in a personal-best 53.41. He has the league's No. 4 mark in the long jump (19-9) and the No. 5 time in the 400 for 2008.

Raulino also ran on the 4x100 relay team with Max Brady, Danny Kassab and Tom Chinick and 4x400 with Beto VanDomelen, Feldman, Robbie Brempelis and Devon Bathon that took third and fourth Thursday.

'I want to get to state,' Raulino said. 'It doesn't matter the event. Our relays have a chance. We could all have a good day and make it.'

Junior Nathan Leascu placed second in the 400 at Thursday's meet with a time of 56.91, while senior Tim Brainerd was fourth in the 800, sophomore Nick Mannen took second in the javelin at 149-10 (third-best in the league for 2008) and junior Mason Dunlop placed third in the triple jump with a mark of 37-2 on his first attempt. Dunlop's best jump of 39-2 is No. 4 in the WVL this season.

Valley Catholic is at Scappoose today (Thursday). The district meet is Thursday and Saturday, May 8 and 10 at Tigard High School.