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Murray, LO boys take fourth at state

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN, In a dramatic finish, Lake Oswego’s Tate Murray crosses in fourth place, barely edged out by Gresham’s Khalia Tidwell, right, who led much of the race. Below, the Lake Oswego boys team poses with its fourth place team trophy. Elijah Greer, center, took ninth individually.

If you happened to see a Lake Oswego uniform at Lane Community College on Saturday, the chances are the person wearing it was also donning a smile.

There were some exciting finishes, terrific individual efforts and a few surprises at the state cross country meet, highlighted by Lake Oswego coming home with some trophies.

The 6A girls race was expected to be relatively close but not many people could have predicted how things would look with 300 meters to go.

As the lead runner hit the track the most notable thing was that there really wasn't a lead runner. In fact there were six of them, all bunched together with a seemingly equal shot at an individual state title.

And one of those runners was Lake Oswego junior Tate Murray. Three others were from Jesuit and Gresham's Khalia Tidwell and St. Marys' Alexandra Jones completed the sextet.

Since the Adidas Invite a few weeks ago, Murray has been slowly convincing herself that she could compete with the state's top runners. Never was that more apparent in her mind than when she ran onto the blue track in Eugene.

'These girls beat me by 30 seconds a few weeks ago and now I'm keeping up with them. I just proved to myself that I could do it,' Murray said.

Murray ran near the front of the pack for much of the race, keeping the leader in sight. Tidwell set the early pace, distancing herself by roughly 20 meters through two miles.

But, as the finish line grew nearer, the top runners bunched up and even with 200 meters left, it was anyone's race. At first, no runner distanced herself with a strong kick.

'When they hit the track, all of those girls were dead. I know Tate was exhausted and told us later it was the hardest she'd ever run,' Laker coach Eric Lider said.

Eventually, on the final straightaway, Jesuit's Annamarie Maag pulled away to claim the title with Jones three seconds behind. Tidwell edged out Murray by half a second for third place but the Laker was anything but discouraged with her fourth place finish.

'I'm so happy with fourth. Obviously it's a little disappointing to get passed near the end but after most of my races I always feel like I could've run a little harder and I don't feel like that at all today,' Murray said.

The Nos. 2 through 6 finishers all crossed the line just 1.9 seconds apart.

Murray's time on what is traditionally a slow course was just 1.5 seconds off of her career best and it set the stage for a handful of other solid finishes from the Lake Oswego girls.

Jocelyn Aguilar took 84th for the Lakers, just 12 seconds behind her best ever time with Sarah Morse and Molly Ponkevitch close behind in 89th and 91st place respectively, just two seconds apart. Ponkevitch's time was just five seconds off of her personal best which she set at this year's district meet.

Kelsey Mead ran a career best time for Lake Oswego as well as the team's fifth place finisher. As a team, Lake Oswego finished in 12th.

For Lakeridge, Kelly Bartz ran a solid race in her first trip to state. The junior paced herself well and took 59th place and was sixth among Three Rivers League finishers.

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The highlight of the boys race for Lake Oswego came 45 minutes after the last runner had crossed the finish line.

That is when the four teams who had earned trophies were announced. And Lake Oswego heard its name called much to the surprise of the majority of the Lakers.

'We were just focused on racing well and running like we did at districts,' Lider said.

Lake Oswego edged out South Eugene by a single point for fourth place meaning that had any runner finished one spot lower than he did, the team could have missed out on a trophy.

Heading into the meet, Lake Oswego had West Linn in its sights as the team it wanted to beat. The Lions ended up in third place which made for a strong showing from the Three Rivers League.

Entering the race, Lake Oswego's Elijah Greer was considered a darkhorse to vie for the title.

Greer ran a conservative race, staying behind the leaders and concentrating on running consistent splits.

But, as the leaders hit the track, they were simply too far in front for Greer to catch. However, the senior did use his trademark kick to pass nearly a dozen runners in the race's final 500 meters and moved into ninth place as he crossed the finish line to earn a spot on the podium, improving on his 15th place showing last year.

'It was a great effort to get into the top 10. His body doesn't know how to run slow on the track,' Lider said.

John Paden turned in a stellar race for the Lakers, taking 14th place in a time that was just 15 seconds off of his best showing of the year.

'John had one of his signature finishes which really helped us,' Lider said.

Paul Hoard came in third for Lake Oswego, taking 40th place overall while Isaac Hayden took 74th and Reed Oliver finished in the top 100 in 96th. For Oliver it marked his third fastest time of the year.

'We told everyone that, when you're on the track, make sure you catch everyone you can because you never know what's going to happen,' Lider said.

Lakeridge's Alex Anderson ran with the leaders through the early part of the race and ended up cracking the top 20 for the first time in his three trips to the state meet. Anderson finished in 18th overall.

His Pacer teammates Kevin Pearson and Seth Troisi stayed with each other through the first two miles.

Pearson eventually finished in 45th and Troisi took 59th, 13 seconds behind.

For Pearson, his time was just six second off of his career best.