Lakeridge girls give best effort at district

Pacer girls claim seven individual titles but finish second at
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Despite running in the hurdles for one of the few times this season, Lakeridge’s Samantha Berryman, above center, was still fast enough to claim district titles in the 100 high hurdles and the 300 low hurdles. She also won the triple jump with a career-best effort. Teammate Mandy White, below center, also won three individual crowns when she won the 100 and 200-meter dashes and the long jump. As a team, the Lakeridge girls took second behind Clackamas.

The Lakeridge girls track team could not have performed much better at last week's district track meet. Yet, even with seven individual crowns, the Pacers still found themselves nearly 40 points behind league champion Clackamas.

What can you say?

'We did just about everything that we thought we were going to do,' said Lakeridge girls coach Ken James, who watched his team finished second behind the Cavs by a 174 to 136½ margin.

While a team title seemed almost out of the question against an extremely deep Clackamas squad, no one was able to top what the Pacers did on an individual basis.

If an athlete of the meet award had been handed out, it would have gone to Lakeridge's Mandy White or teammate Samantha Berryman. Each of them won three events and they did it in impressive fashion.

White won the 100 and 200-meter dashes with season-best times. Her 12.12 time in the 100 gives her the best mark in Oregon heading into this week's state meet. Her 200 time of 25.16 isn't far from that distinction. Plus, she won the long jump with a season-best effort of 17-1½.

White, who hasn't lost a race all year, is so confident that she can't wait to get to Eugene at the end of the week to run in the state meet.

'I want to get first in state (in 100 meters) this year … I think I'll win it,' White said after winning that race at districts.

She's even confident about her chances in the 200, even though two other girls ran slightly better times at their district meets last week.

'I'll beat them,' White said matter-of-factly.

And who could argue with her?

'She's just unbelievable,' James said of his senior sprinter. 'She's done everything this year that we could have asked for … It's girls like that are just really hard to lose.'

At least James will get one more year with Berryman in the fold. All Berryman did last week was win both hurdle events plus the triple jump. But she just missed winning four individual titles for the third year in a row when she placed fourth in the high jump.

The remarkable thing is Berryman is just now rounding into shape after spending most of the last six months rehabbing from knee surgery. Because of that deliberate recovery, Berryman had only run the hurdle races two times this season before last week.

With limited preparation it probably wasn't too surprising that Berryman essentially collapsed at the end of Friday's 300 hurdle final, which was her fourth event of the day. She still won the race even though she was totally spent by the end.

'It's one of those races where I always work my hardest and I seem to push myself to the limit,' said Berryman, who also fell during last year's 300 hurdle race and wound up winning that event as well.

'I didn't know I was going to fall. I thought I was going to stumble,' Berryman said of this year's fall. 'But I think it helped me out. I think it got me across the line better … and I gave the crowd a run for their money.'

Winning four individual titles was definitely a goal for Berryman again this year, so she was admittedly dejected after finishing out of the running in the high jump. But she didn't have time to feel sorry for herself.

'I was telling myself, 'I need to get on top of this. I can still go (to state) in three other events, so I need to quit pouting about not making it in one,' ' Berryman said.

Plus, the sting of missing out in the high jump - an event she won as a freshman - was lessened a bit when freshman teammate Lexi Ross won the event with a leap of 5-3.

'Lexi will do great at state. So I'll be rooting for her from the sideline,' Berryman said.

Ross is so versatile that she wind up being the next Samantha Berryman, an athlete who excels at virtually everything she tries. But clearly, Ross' best event, at least for now, is the high jump. Last year as an eighth grader she jumped 5-6, which would have been good enough to win the state high school title.

Even though she was the favorite to win last week's district crown, Ross was tense all day before the competition.

'I was very nervous,' she said. 'My teachers were telling me, 'Calm down. You still have an hour or two to go.' But once I got up there (on the high jump apron), I just took a deep breath and I was completely fine.'

Ross enters the state meet seeded fifth, but no one ahead of her managed to jump higher than 5-5 last week. So, Ross likes her chances for winning again.

'I feel I have a shot at it,' she said. 'I just need to work and keep fighting for it … I can do anything.'

Going into the meet, James figured there was a good chance that he would send Berryman and freshman teammate Stacy Sawin to state in both hurdle events. Well, Sawin very nearly came through but she wound up third in both races. Each time, meet officials had to review a race video to determine who actually claimed second.

In the 100 hurdles, Sawin easily turned in her season-best time with a mark of 15.89. But West Linn's Kelli Walters was .03 ahead of her. Ironically, Walters lost a trip to state in similar fashion when she was a freshman. But she's claimed a berth every year since then.

For a while, it seemed Sawin would redeem herself in the 300 hurdles. But she wound up one-tenth of a second behind the second-place finisher, Clackamas' Whitney Jackson. Berryman was another tenth in front despite stumbling across the line.

Sawin wasn't completely shut out, however. She will compete at state in the 4x400 relay after the Pacers finished second in the district meet. In addition to Sawin, that team also included Chloe Block, Michaela McNairy and Jenna Horton.

Plus, Andrea Hopkins is headed to Eugene after taking second in the javelin. Her toss of 130-01 will give her the fifth seed in this weekend's event.

In the boys meet, Lakeridge didn't have enough athletes to pose much of a threat to Clackamas, which won the meet. But the Pacers did come up with some impressive individual efforts.

The Pacer boys didn't win any events but Billy Mitchell did qualify for state when he finished second in the 100-meter dash. Mitchell turned in a quick time of 11.24, which would have been good enough to win most dual meets.

While there was jubliation for Mitchell, it was heartbreak for teammate Zach Young, who finished third with a time of 11.27. It was unfortunate that both Mitchell and Young couldn't qualify for state, but there was only room for one of them after Putnam's Joevonte Mayes won the race with blistering fast time of 10.97.

'It's tough for me and (Young),' Mitchell said. 'We're both great runners, but only one of us could go to state. It just came down to the last two or three meters.'

Young had been the leader of Lakeridge's sprint corps for most of the season. But Mitchell missed a large portion of the season after injuring a hamstring.

'This was the first time I ran the 100 since the Oregon City meet, which was week four,' Mitchell said.

Mitchell nearly qualified a short time later in the 200, but he was barely nosed out for the second spot by Putnam's Logan Fjelstad, who was clocked in a time of 22.72. Mitchell had a time of 22.76.

The sprints were Lakeridge's strength all season and that evident when the Pacer boys took second in the 4x100 relay. The team of Robbie Kool, Zach Young, Taylor Young and Mitchell turned in a time of 43.23.

'We haven't taken a boys 4x100 team to state in as long as I've been here,' Lakeridge boys coach Cameron Reynolds said.

Surprisingly, Lakeridge distance star Dave Marks did not qualify for state after doing so last year. This time he finished fourth in the 3,000 meters and eighth in the 1,500.

Travis Dunn also was expected to qualify for state, but he had to watch from the sidelines after severely bruising a knee three weeks ago.

'He would have gone to state in the 300 hurdles and the long jump and the triple jump. So there's 30 points, or at least 24 points, that we didn't have,' Reynolds said.

Even though the Pacer boys weren't much of a factor in the team competition, Reynolds believes his team has now turned the corner and is headed for bigger and better things.

'As a team we're still building,' the coach said. 'We've come a long, long way from where we used to be … We're now to the place where we're going to be competitive every year.'