Vikings will compete for state meet berths at districts Thursday
The workouts have been run. The dual meets and invitationals are finished. The taper is in progress.
Now its time for the race for all the marbles.
Emerging from the Pacific Conference dual meet slate with near-identical 7-0 and 6-1 records, the boys and girls of the Forest Grove cross-country team are going after the big prize in Thursdays Pacific Conference district meet a trip to the Class 6A state meet.
The top two teams and top five individuals on nonqualifying teams in Thursdays varsity races at Clackamas Community College will all earn trips to Eugene on Nov. 2. Keeping with tradition, the Vikings hope to be among them. The varsity girls race is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. start, followed by the boys race at 4 p.m.
Getting the conference championship is very nice and its tough, because you have to be able to do that throughout the season, Forest Grove coach Sue Fleskes noted. But the ones that really matter are the district meets, because they are the ones that qualify you for the state meet.
The Vikings tuned up for the district meet and sealed those dual meet records last Wednesday in their only home meet of the season. Running on Spiesschaert family farmland north of the high school ball fields, the girls breezed to an 18-45 victory against Century. The boys, competing without Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski and Seth Berdahl who sat out the meet but are healthy still had plenty to knock off the Jaguars 22-35 and wrap up an undefeated dual meet season.
Murimi Nyamu stepped into the top spot for the Forest Grove boys, winning the 5-kilometer race in 17 minutes, 2 seconds. Archer Morgan was third in 17:32, not far behind Centurys Angel Salazar (17:22). Everett Fellger (18:16), Aaron Orr (18:16) and Joey Skeele (18:22) went 5-6-7 for the Vikings to round out their scoring.
Continuing her steady season, Rubi Vergara-Grindell was the winner on the girls side in 20:35. Emilia Anderson took second place in 20:57, outdistancing Centurys top finisher, Braanna Weber, who was third in 21:30. Kimberly Heesacker (21:37), Elissa Anderson (21:52) and Ellie Schnorr (22:09) finished immediately behind Weber to complete Forest Groves scoring.
I think all of us had really good races. It was a nice, relaxed race, Vergara-Grindell said. We didnt have to run too hard, and I think everyone felt good about it.
With that meet finished, the Vikings have turned their sights to the district meet. A speed workout on the track on Monday left Vergara-Grindell and Lizier-Zmudzinski feeling optimistic heading into Thursday. But while both the boys and girls enter Thursdays races as the two-time reigning district meet champions, the rest of the conference isnt going to just hand over the triple-double.
In fact, on the girls side, the Vikings look to be in a three-way battle with Newberg and Tigard for the leagues two spots to state. Forest Grove dropped a 31-34 decision to Newberg on Sept. 18 and defeated Tigard 53-57 on Sept. 18 to finish second in the league standings.
All three teams have continued to show good form over the course of the season, setting up a showdown that will leave two squads happy and the third out of the state meet mix.
It definitely kind of raises the bar for the competition and keeps us on our toes, Vergara-Grindell acknowledged. We have no idea whats going to happen. It makes it more exciting. Everythings not just set out from the beginning, and it makes better competitors out of us.
Individually, McMinnvilles Whitney Rich is back to defend her 2012 title. Hillsboros Lauren Lykins also is a returning individual state qualifier, and Weber has cracked 20 minutes twice this fall in her first season of cross-country.
The Vikings boys are the front-runners for the top spot, but at least on paper, McMinnville, Glencoe and Tualatin are also in the mix for a berth to the state meet.
Were not thinking about how well were supposed to do, Lizier-Zmudzinski said. We just know that if we go out, run like we know were capable of, well be just fine.
A senior, Lizier-Zmudzinski is seeking for his first-ever district meet title. He took second in 2011 and missed all of last season due to injury. Berdahl has been nipping at his heels of late, so Lizier-Zmudzinski is hoping the Vikings can make it a 1-2 finish at the head of the pack. Reigning champion Nic McDaniel of McMinnville returns, while Mason Rouches and Abe Teklu of Glencoe, and Matthew Lovos of Tualatin could be others in the mix up front.
Lizier-Zmudzinski likes the odds for his female teammates, too.
The girls are in a battle, but every year they seem to be able to pull it out, he said. Every year they go in tight with a couple of other teams, but they really perform when it counts the most, and so I dont expect them to do any different this year.