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Vikings dominate district meet


Forest Grove girls claim second place behind Tigard to earn a trip to state

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove teammates Ellie Schnorr (232) and Kimberly Heesacker run side-by-side during last Thursday's Pacific Conference district meet.For the Forest Grove girls cross-country team, second place will do just fine.

The Lady Vikings got the three-team battle they expected in last Thursday’s Pacific Conference district meet. And while they could not turn back a hot-running Tigard squad for the league crown, they still accomplished their primary objective — a berth to the Class 6A state meet in Eugene.

With a second-place finish to the Tigers last week, the Vikings qualified for the state championship meet for the third consecutive season. They will toe the start line of the Lane Community College 5K course at 2:25 p.m. on Saturday.

“We knew that girls side was going to be close,” said Forest Grove coach Sue Fleskes, who was frantically scribbling away in the nervous moments after the race, doing calculations on paper near the finish line at Clackamas Community College.

Indeed, it was pretty close. In the end, Tigard put three runners in the top 10 to finish with 48 points. Led by the strong front-running tandem of Rubi Vergara-Grindell and Emilia Anderson, who put in a 2-4 finish, Forest Grove took second place with 58 points.

Newberg, which had gone undefeated in conference dual meets, took third with 74 points to wind up as the odd team out for a trip to state.

“It’s a really big thing for our school,” said Anderson, who covered the 5-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 5.15 seconds, just off of her personal-best time. “This is our third time a row ... and so it’s just really nice to go back again, and I love all my girls. I’m really glad we could go back as a team.”

Vergara-Grindell ran at the front of the pack for the entire race, finishing only behind McMinnville sophomore Whitney Rich, who repeated as individual conference champion in 19:31.33. Vergara-Grindell was not far behind in 19:48.88, followed by Century’s Braanna Weber in 20:00.36. Vergara-Grindell’s finish was the best individual result by a Forest Grove girl since 2008, when four-time state qualifier Laura Matzke also finished as the runner-up.

“I feel really happy about it,” Vergara-Grindell said. “It was definitely a struggle in the race. It was a hard race for me. I just feel really good with how we did as a team and how I did.”

Rich and Weber qualified as individuals for state, as did Hillsboro’s Lauren Lykins (sixth, 20:17.95) and Newberg’s top runner, Debora DeLeon (seventh, 20:26.71).

Behind Vergara-Grindell and Anderson, the top team duo in the field, Forest Grove’s third through fifth runners helped the Vikings’ cause by beating or finishing right behind some of their Newberg counterparts.

Kimberly Heesacker (21:04.43) and Ellie Schnorr (21:11.74) posted a 15-16 finish to edge out Newberg’s pack. The Tigers’ third, fourth and fifth runners took 17th, 18th and 20th, respectively. Elissa Anderson, Emilia’s freshman sister, rounded out the scoring for Forest Grove in 21st place (21:18.16), less than half a second behind Newberg’s fifth runner.

“When I got here today, I wasn’t sure if we were going to be going to state, so I was pretty nervous about that,” Vergara-Grindell noted. “But even though we didn’t win, Tigard did really good and they deserve it. I’m just happy that we’re going to be able to compete.”

Forest Grove’s other competitors at the district meet were Corinne Reed, who finished 24th in 21:41.72, and Julia Khoury, who took 33rd in 22:31.54. Tara Campbell finished third in the junior varsity race (22:17.35) and will replace Khoury as the Vikings’ seventh runner at state.

In this Saturday’s race, the Vikings face another talented field. On paper, Sunset, St. Mary’s Academy, Grant, South Eugene, Sheldon and Jesuit appear to be some of the teams in the trophy mix. After her team’s two consecutive eighth-place finishes, Vergara-Grindell, who was 56th individually last year, would like to see Forest Grove move up in the team standings.

“I’m really hoping that we can move that down to seventh or even sixth,” she said.