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Viks hope to send more athletes to this year's state track meet


Traditionally strongest in the middle distance events, Forest Grove welcomes an influx of talented sprinters

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Forest Grove's Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski celebrates his victory in the 1,500 meters at last year's Class 6A state championships at Hayward Field in Eugene. Lizier-Zmudzinski, now a junior, will return this year to defend his state title as well as a district title in the 800 meters.Forest Grove track and field coach Scott McCahon does not know exactly what sort of team he has this season.

With Union (Wash.), the Vikings’ traditional season-opening opponent unable to make the trip to Forest Grove this year, McCahon decided to hold time trials instead, splitting the team up and staging several events each day.

Even though McCahon will not see his squad in full competitive mode until after spring break — the Vikings open up the season on April 3 at Tualatin — he does not seem worried. Instead, McCahon is taking a long-term view to the season with his charges, who total about 120 in all.

“It’s a long season. It’ll wear on you,” McCahon said. “We’ve got time, and we’ll have the kids ready.”

McCahon said his team is young, but that the Vikings also possess senior leadership. Among those seniors is Paul Schot, who finished fifth in the long jump and ninth in the triple jump at the Pacific Conference district meet a year ago.

But the headliner of this year’s squad would have to be Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski, a junior who swept the Pacific Conference 800 and 1,500 meters in 2012 and then captured the Class 6A state championship in the longer race a week later at Hayward Field in Eugene. Lizier-Zmudzinski has been battling injury this school season but is back running.

“Everybody’s after him, and everybody knows and everybody will be watching him,” McCahon said. “He’s Geremia. He will work hard. He will do everything he can to get back.”

Forest Grove’s other state qualifiers in 2012, James McCahon (intermediate hurdles) and Tyler Shipley (3,000 meters), have graduated.

This year, Scott McCahon seems enthused about his boys sprinters.

“They’re young. They’re sophomores and juniors, and if we can keep them out and keep them healthy, they’re going to be fun to watch,” McCahon said. “They’re a good bunch. It’s the strongest we’ve been as a group in the sprints in a long time.”

Schot will lead the group, which includes sophomores Christian Guerra, Connor Dionne, Jakob Orlowski, Ricky Torres and Zac Collins.

The distances should be another bright spot for the team, and not just because of Lizier-Zmudzinski. Even without the reigning state champion, the Viking boys — led in part by Seth Berdahl and Connor Pitt — won the Pacific Conference cross country title and yet another state berth this past fall.

In the throws, Tate DeSully was fifth in the shot put as a sophomore a year ago. Javelin thrower Kyle Haag also returns.

The girls team did not advance any competitors to the state meet in 2012, but that does not meet the Lady Vikings were devoid of standouts.

McCahon singled out the versatile Shannon Hammond, who can jump, hurdle and sprint. Only a junior this season, Hammond tied for fourth place in the high jump and took fifth in the triple jump last year in a conference filled with standout jumpers.

McCahon acknowledged “some really good girls” on the Viking girls’ distance squad, which won the league cross country title in the fall. Rubi Vergara-Grindell will not be competing this season, but senior Elena Torry-Schrag — a three-time district place-winner on the track — is returning for her senior season.

Fellow harriers Kim Heesacker and Emilia Anderson, who were 11th and 12th in the cross country district meet, have also turned out this season.

Other girls returners include Corinne Reed (hurdles) and Jessica Bickford (sprints).

“I think we’re a little meatier than we were a year ago, and so I’m really excited to get on the track,” McCahon said.

Forest Grove opens the season at Tualatin on April 3. The first meet on the school’s brand new track, which was dug up and redone in the offseason, is scheduled for April 10 against McMinnville.