Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski wins the Northwest Classic at the same venue that will host November's state meet

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: ZACK PALMER - Forest Grove senior Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski runs stride for stride alongside South Eugene's Reilly Bloomer during the Northwest Classic.Forest Grove cross-country standout Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski isn’t overly concerned with his race times so far this season. He’s really only interested in one thing — winning.

“This year I’m running to win,” the senior said. “I’m hoping to run 20 to 25 seconds faster by the end of the season, but I don’t want to throw numbers out there. For now, I’m just happy winning races. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Lizier-Zmudzinski made it a perfect 4-for-4 on Saturday, winning his fourth race of the season with an impressive performance at the Northwest Classic, held at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Running on the same 5K course that will host the Class 6A state cross-country championships later this fall, the Forest Grove senior went to the front of the pack early and battled South Eugene’s Reilly Bloomer for much of the race before pulling away in the final 800 meters, crossing the finish line in a blistering 15 minutes, 41 seconds — just one second off the time run by last year’s state champion.

The time was a 22-second personal best for Lizier-Zmudzinski, who finished 17th in the state as a sophomore, but missed last cross-country season with an injury.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m in a lot better shape and a lot faster than I was as a sophomore, plus the competition was a lot better (at the Northwest Classic), so I think that pushed me to run faster.

“That’s the thing I missed the most — the competition. That’s really what I live for, and that’s been the nicest thing to come back to after not running last year.”

Making the performance even more impressive was the fact that Lizier-Zmudzinski ran about 4,700 of the course’s 5,000 meters with only one shoe.

Going up the first hill, another runner stepped on the back of Lizier-Zmudzinski’s left shoe. The senior couldn’t get his heel back into place, so he flipped the shoe to himself mid-race, then tossed it to a teammate who was cheering along the course.

“I remember thinking, ‘You can’t do anything about it now, so just keep running,’” he said. “If I can win races with one shoe, I feel pretty good about my chances of winning with two.”

Lizier-Zmudzinski’s victory, coupled with teammate Seth Berdahl’s 13th-place showing (16:23), put the Viking boys in 10th place out of 27 teams.

Also scoring for Forest Grove were Archer Morgan in 88th place (17:48), Duncan Stewart in 118th (18:11) and Everett Fellger in 121st (18:13). Joey Skeele (154th, 18:57) and Calvin Fischer (157th, 19:04) also ran in the varsity race.

On the girls side, junior Rubi Vergara-Grindell finished 28th to lead the Lady Vikings to a 10th-place team finish. Her time of 20:18 was a personal best by seven seconds and it paced a strong showing by the Forest Grove girls.

Emilia Anderson finished in 44th place (20:56), Kimberly Heesacker was 50th (21:03) and Corinne Reed took 92nd (22:16). Additionally, freshmen Ellie Schnorr and Elissa Anderson cracked the varsity lineup, with Schnorr racing to a 73rd-place finish (21:53) and Anderson claiming 98th (22:23).

Banks also sent boys and girls teams to the Northwest Classic, competing in a division for 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A schools. The Lady Braves finished 13th as a team, while the boys did not record a team score.

Leading the way for Banks was sophomore Jamie Borchers, who finished 43rd in the small-school race with a personal-best time of 22:31.

Banks’ young lineup was buoyed by a number of underclassmen — freshman Anna Klein finished 72nd (24:18), sophomore Cassie Streblow was 83rd (24:42), freshman Jaime Evers was 92nd (25:48) and sophomore Tiffany Jansen was 94th (25:52).

Amy Hilger was the only senior to run for Banks, finishing 81st with a time of 24:38 in her first-ever cross-country meet. Hilger, a track standout for the Lady Braves, finished second in the high jump at last year’s Class 4A state meet.

The Banks boys were led by sophomore Hamza Iqbal, who finished 109th (21:36). Teammate Travis Thompson finished 133rd (25:05) and Noah Denker was 139th (27:48).

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