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Pacer track team stacked with talent

Two years ago, Lakeridge won the league championship in girls track with a team that was loaded with stars. And this year's team might be even better.

'We're going to be really good,' coach Ken James said earlier this week.

For those needing confirmation, just look at the state's best marks from Tuesday's track-and-field action. Twelve times Lakeridge competitors were mentioned among the state's best. It was no wonder that Lakeridge rolled past Milwaukie 100-41 in the first dual meet of the season.

For starters, senior Mandy White had the day's best 100-meter time with a mark of 12.39, and she was second-best in the 200 with a time of 26.5, plus she was tops in the long jump at 16-5.

Then there was junior Samantha Berryman, who was best in the 100 high hurdles (with a 16.89 mark) and second to White in the long jump (with a 16-0 effort).

In addition, freshman Stacy Sawin was No. 1 in the 300 low hurdles with a time of 49.42; and freshman Lexi Ross was tops in the high jump with a 5-3 effort.

Then there's Jenna Horton, who had the third-best mark in the 400-meter dash; Andrea Hopkins, who was second in the javelin; and Kai Schmidt, who was third in javelin.

On top of all of that, Lakeridge also had the best 4-by-100 relay time and the best 4-by-400 time.

While the team is loaded with good athletes, the leaders have to be White and Berryman.

Last year, White won individual district titles in three events - the 100, 200 and the long jump. Plus, she was a member of Lakeridge's short relay team that qualified for state.

And the times she turned in on Tuesday aren't even her best of the season. Last week at an invitational meet in McMinnville, White set a new school record in the 100 with a hand-held time of 11.9. That was later converted to a 12.14 automatic time, which still eclipsed Ashley Bridenbeck's previous school mark by .01 of a second.

At this point, the sky seems to be the limit for White.

'She's got aspirations of running at the D-I level, and she can certainly do it,' James said.

Berryman, meanwhile, has been White's equal since arriving on the scene two years ago. But she's still recovering from knee surgery after being injured during the soccer season. It's amazing she's already turning in top-level marks.

'She's very close (to full speed),' James said of Berryman. 'We're just erring on the side of caution.'

When she's at full strength, Berryman is capable of qualifying for state in as many as eight events - including both hurdles, the high jump, the long jump, the triple jump, the javelin and both relays. Unfortunately, athletes are only allowed to compete in four events per meet.

Fortunately, the Pacers have enough girls that can fill in where Berryman and others can't.

Horton is one of those rising stars. As a freshman last year, she was fifth in the district in the 400. This year, it looks like she's ready to challenge for the district title.

In the hurdles, the extra help will come from sophomore Sara Hursey and senior Stephanie Crim. Hursey took fifth in the high hurdles in last year's district meet, and Crim was fourth in the 300 hurdles.

'It's going to be hard to beat us in the hurdle races,' James boasted.

The Pacers also could dominate in the high jump, which used to be one of Berryman's best events. However, because of her knee injury, Berryman probably won't compete in that event until the end of the season.

That's OK, though, because Ross will more than pick up the slack. She jumped 5-6 last year as an eighth grader. That would have been good enough to win the state high school title. So, her 5-3 effort on Tuesday is just scratching the surface of her potential.

Plus, like Berryman, Ross is versatile enough to compete in a number of events.

'She can do just about anything and we're going to try her in a bunch of stuff,' James said.

As good as Lakeridge is, it's not a foregone conclusion that the Pacers will win the district team title this year. That's because Clackamas and West Linn are essentially just as good.

So, you might want to circle May 10-11 on your calendar. Those are the dates of this year's district meet, which will be held at West Linn.