Of course, dual track meets count in the league standings, but Lake Oswego coach Eric Lider will essentially be using those meets as practice. He has his eye on the bigger picture.

'We're just working on performing well at districts,' Lider said as his team prepared for Friday's 18th annual Laker Classic Track Meet.

The Laker Classic will feel a lot like a district meet, and Lider has a number of good athletes who will be able to shine on a bigger stage.

On the boys side of the ledger, where Lider welcomed a record turnout of 69 athletes, the Lakers have a star in virtually every event, especially in the running events.

Anthony Culver is ranked among the top five in the district in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes, and Thomas Belesiu is close to the top in the 400. In the 800, Riley Werner is ranked No. 3 in the TRL, and sophomore phenom Elijah Greer is the league's best in both the 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs. The Lakers also are strong in the hurdle events as James Ratliff is ranked in the top five in both.

In addition, the Lakers' Curtis Houghton is the defending league champion in the pole vault. He's off to a bit of a slow start this year, but he's more than capable of winning another district title as a junior.

The Lakers also are strong in the shot put, where Brandon Akerman has eclipsed the 40-foot mark and is beginning to close in on the top marks in the league. Plus, Micah Hatfield (hurdles), Alex Martin (distance races) and Alex Robinson (middle distances) give the Lakers just enough depth to be dangerous at the district meet.

The girls team might have even greater potential than the boys squad. There's five events where the Laker girls have at least two of the league's top 10 competitors.

In one of those events - the 100-meter dash - they have three of the best. That includes junior JoJo Faris, who is ranked No. 2 in the league behind Lakeridge's Mandy White. Freshman Jacqui Wallis and junior Kate Mogentale are also in the top 10.

In the 200, it's sophomore Andrea Ryder and Mogentale who are ranked in the top 10; and in the 400, Wallis has the league's second-best time. Then there's Lauren Ohlson, who is No. 2 in the 800-meter run. In the 1,500, Shelley Chestler is ranked No. 5 while Ohlson is one spot behind. Chestler is also No. 3 in the 3,000.

Senior Emily Rohde is the team's top hurdler. She's ranked No. 5 in the 300 lows.

In the field events, the javelin seems to be the Lakers' strong suit with Devon Brown ranked No. 5 and Becca Hodges No. 7.

The Lakers also are strong in the jumps, especially in the triple jump where Wallis is listed with the third-best mark and junior Gina Contolini is ranked No. 4. Plus, Faris is No. 9 in the long jump.

Lider also is looking for big things from sprinters Brooke Bartholomew and Mady Johnson, which will help give the Lakers some depth at districts.

'We're always focusing for the district meet,' the coach said.

If the Lakers were in a different league, they might be one of the favorites to win a league crown. But that might be hard to do in the Three Rivers League, where Lakeridge, West Linn and Clackamas are all strong enough to be in the top 10 at state.

Maybe the best part of the Lake Oswego girls team is the fact it only has five seniors and 54 underclassemen.

'I'm looking at this as a re-emerging team,' Lider said. 'They're a great group to work with and they're eager to get better.'

The biggest test to date this season will come on Friday when Lake Oswego hosts another Laker Classic. In addition to Lake Oswego, the field includes McNary, South Salem, Thurston, Tualatin, Lincoln, Cleveland, Marshall, Parkrose and Southridge.

In addition, some selected individuals have been recruited to compete in four key events - the pole vault, the javelin, the high hurdles and the 1,500-meter run.

The field events for Friday's meet will start at 3:30 p.m. while the running events will begin at 5 p.m.

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