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Viking runners gearing up for late-season surge

With a team sweep at the Trojan Relays and a dual meet win over Tualatin, the Vikings are heating up


During its bye week, the Forest Grove cross country teams didn’t just sit around doing nothing.

Instead, they entered the Trojan Relays.

The Trojan Relays, held in St. Helens, are a fun way for cross country teams to put themselves in a competitive environment with a non-traditional format. The race is comprised of a 3,100-meter course which circles a lake. After each runner finishes their leg, the next runner starts.

“It’s great fun for us and it’s a chance to work on speed as well,” Forest Grove cross country coach Sue Fleskes said. “It was our bye week so that worked out perfectly. Sometimes we’re not able to go to this meet. But, it’s a really fun opportunity.”

Of course, part of what makes participating in races fun for the ultra-competitive Viking program is running well. Both the boys and girls teams certainly did that at the Oct. 4 meet.

Here is how Fleskes breaks down the boys’ victory:

“Judd Parson led our boys with the fastest split of 10:04 but, in the end, there was only an 11-second difference between Judd, Seth Berdahl, Michael Garcia, Connor Pitt and our fifth runner, Brayan Cruz.

“(It would have been) a great, tight pack if they had all been running at the same time. (We) finished over a minute ahead of second-place Lake Oswego.”

Fleskes breaks down the girls’ win like this:

“The girls were led by Rubi Vergara-Grindell with a time of 12:10. Our top four (runners) — Rubi, Emilia Anderson, Julia Khoury and Kimberly Heesacker — were close in time to each other. (They) also finished over a minute ahead of second-place Lake Oswego.”

The result was even more impressive considering that the Vikings did not gear up to peak during the meet.

“Winning the Trojan Relays this year on both the boys and girls side really affirmed how hard this group is training — already having some speed without yet resting or tapering,” Fleskes said.

The Forest Grove boys and girls both followed up their performance at the Trojan Relays by winning a dual meet against Tualatin on Oct. 10.

“We had over 20 athletes with either season or lifetime bests,” Fleskes said. “I was extremely impressed with how well they ran.”

Fleskes was most concerned about how the boys would fare against Tualatin.

“We knew on the boys side that it would be close,” Fleskes said. “On paper it actually looked like Tualatin might win that meet.”

The boys got very solid performances from their runners, though. Berdahl took second place with a time of 16:41, Parson took third place (16:45), Pitt was fifth (17:00) and Garcia finished ninth (17:39).

Those finishes allowed the Vikings to edge Tualatin by one point.

“That was kind of squeaking by,” Fleskes said. “Our kids came through, beat the people they needed to beat and it came right down to the wire for a couple of places which made a difference.”

Fleskes was much more confident that the girls would be able to handle Tualatin.

“On the girls side we knew we would be strong,” Fleskes said. “They have got some good runners, but we knew we would be strong. Still, the girls competed so, so well.”

The Lady Vikings swept first through third places with Elena Torry-Schrag winning in a time of 20:10, Anderson finishing in second place (20:13) and Khoury coming in third (20:37).

Heesacker took fifth place with a time of 21:11, Esther Harris claimed ninth (22:29), Jessica Steigerwald was 10th (22:35) and Chloe Janko finished 11th (22:35).

After those performances, Fleskes feels extremely confident with how her athletes are running. The Forest Grove boys remain undefeated in the Pacific Conference, while the girls have lost just a single meet to Newberg — by a single point.

“We’re exactly where we want to be,” Fleskes said. “They’re doing what we asked them to do, so I’m very, very pleased with where we are right now.”

The Vikings had their final double dual meet of the season on Wednesday against Hillsboro and Glencoe.

Throughout the regular-season league meets, Forest Grove has been able to race 12 runners. In the district meet, though, only seven runners are allowed to race per team.

Fleskes plans to use the results from the double dual against Hillsboro and Glencoe to figure out which seven runners she wants to compete at districts, which will be held next Thursday at Clackamas Community College.

“This meet is going to be very important for those fifth, sixth and seventh place finishers on the boys side,” Fleskes said. “On the girls side, too. But, primarily on the boys side. Those positions have been juggling all season.”

Regardless of how well the Vikings have done so far this season, the focus for both the boys and girls teams will be on the upcoming district meet.

“Our sights are really the district meet. That’s really what the kids are preparing for,” Fleskes said. “These League meets are fun, but they’re not the end-all.

“We want to do well in the district meet and hopefully get both teams out to the state meet in Eugene. We’re sitting right where we had hoped that they would be.”




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