Gresham favored to win a repeat track title
BOYS TRACK PREVIEW - State placers Shaun Lambert and J.R. Velasquez return for Gophers
The Mount Hood Conference should be well-represented on the award's stand at this year's Class 6A state meet, as a number of standout athletes return to the track this spring.
Gresham was just nine points from the state title last year, and should make another run a the trophy in 2007. But first the Gophers will have to turn away several league challengers, most notably Barlow and David Douglas.
Following are previews of the five local teams:
- GRESHAM -
The Gophers return plenty of talent on the track, but will need to fill some holes on the infield to repeat its perfect league season of a year ago. Senior sprinter Shaun Lambert leads the squad after winning the district 100-meter dash and taking second in the 200.
Gresham's 1,600 relay should provide winning points in any close meets, returning in tact after placing third at state last year. That unit includes Lambert along with fellow seniors Robert Manwell, Gavin Riedel and Spencer Clark. Manwell should also contribute big points in the hurdles, while Clark is a threat in the middle-distance races.
- BARLOW -
The Bruins may be one of the few league teams that can challenge defending champion Gresham this season. Barlow has talent spread throughout the various events, led by junior Eric Capelle who qualified for state in the 100 dash and the high hurdles last season.
'He's just so fast,' Gustafson said. 'He's been doing hurdles since fifth grade, so he has the speed and the technique.'
The Bruins are also solid in the longer races with junior Kevin Cook returning as a state placer in the 400, while junior Jordi Bright gives the distance crew a boost after transferring from Damascus Christian. He placed third in the 800 at the Class 1A state meet in 2006.
- D. DOUGLAS -
The Scots are hoping for big production out of senior sprinter Brennan East, who claimed the district 200 title last year.
'He works to improve himself every single day,' Scots' coach Kiana Hanna said. 'He's that guy, who could do well in six different events.'
The Scots are also solid in the distance races with veteran racers Tim Roady, Grant Lewis and twins Luke and Jared Correll giving the team a chance for some 1-2-3 sweeps. Douglas finished third during the cross country season with Roady and Luke Correll placing in the top 10 at district.
- CENTENNIAL -
The Eagles return several standout athletes, but will rely on a young group to provide the depth needed to be a team contender this spring. Leading the group is junior Chris Struckman, who is the top returning high jumper in the revamped Class 6A division. He finished third at a national meet during the summer.
'He has a lot of upside,' Centennial coach Greg Letts said. 'He's a very smooth jumper. We're expecting big things from him this year.'
Junior Michael DeTienne leads the distance crew after taking eighth at district in the cross country season.
- REYNOLDS -
The Raiders are hoping that another big turnout will help them climb back into the top half of the league this spring. Reynolds has 90 boys out for early-season practices and will have no trouble filling the varsity slots in the 17 events.
'There's just a track culture over here, and the kids take a lot of pride in coming out and working hard,' Raiders' coach Todd Rispler said. 'We may not get first in every event, but we really emphasize going after those second-and third-place points.'
The distance crew appears to be the team's strength, coming off a runner-up showing during the cross-country season. Senior Karim Shakalia gives the Raiders a first-place threat in the 1,500 and 3,000 races, while junior Daniel Vo leads the pack in the 800.
A full preview was published in the Wednesday, March 21, issue of the Gresham Outlook.