Forest Grove qualifies 10 athletes for this weekend's Class 6A track and field state meet at Hayward Field

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove's Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski (right) and Tigard's Tyler Powers go head-to-head in the 4x400-meter relay last Friday.NEWBERG — Forest Grove came up big at the meet that mattered most.

The Vikings boys and girls track and field teams showed their mettle last Thursday and Friday at the Pacific Conference district meet at Newberg High School. On the strength of four top-two finishes — including two victories — the boys finished fourth in the team standings and on the girls’ side, sophomore superstar Alyssa Villalobos and junior Rubi Vergara-Grindell qualified for state with top-notch performances.

All of that adds up to Forest Grove taking a contingent of 10 participants to the Class 6A track and field state meet, which takes place Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.

In all, the Vikings boys scored 78¾ points to finish behind host Newberg (138½), McMinnville and Tigard. The Forest Grove girls earned 44 points, good for seventh. Hillsboro narrowly defeated McMinnville for the district title.

Tate de Sully and Seth Berdahl set the tone Thursday, when finals for half of the field events and the 3,000 meters took place. De Sully lived up to his billing as one of the shot put favorites, uncorking a throw of 50 feet, 8¾ inches to win by 6¼ inches over McMinnville senior Tim Tatton for his first state berth.

Berdahl, a junior, followed the hot pace set by teammate Murimi Nyamu in the boys 3,000. After Glencoe’s Mason Rouches established some separation at the start of the bell lap, Berdahl kicked over the final 300 meters to claim second and punch his ticket to state. Nyamu wound up fourth in 8 minutes, 58.87 seconds.

Both Rouches (8:43.55) and Berdahl (8:48.77), who produced a personal best of nearly 15 seconds, will be contenders to score at the state meet. Berdahl’s time established a new school record, breaking the 8:51.15 that Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski ran last season.

“I was just super excited. It didn’t really hit me then, but it was really awesome,” Berdahl said about qualifying for state. “I felt really good during the race. I didn’t ever feel that tired.”

As for Lizier-Zmudzinski, his performance in the 1,500 demonstrated that he could be ready to make a run at a second state title. On Friday, the Vikings senior led wire-to-wire, establishing a big lead partway through the race, but he kept enough gas in reserve to hold off McMinnville rival Nic McDaniel in the homestretch of the last lap.

Though Lizier-Zmudzinski was not thrilled with his final 300 meters, his time of 3:55.42 was his second-fastest ever and was within two seconds of his 2012 state title-winning time. McDaniel finished in a personal best of 3:57.38.

“I felt him behind me after 800,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said. “He’s a great kicker, so I was like, ‘I’m dropping him here. I feel fresh.’”

Lizier-Zmudzinski also was involved in a rousing meet finale performance by the Vikings in the 4x400 relay. With top seed Newberg having scratched from the race, Forest Grove and Tigard pulled away from the rest of the field and waged a duel for victory. Duncan Stewart, Dylan Richmond, Lizier-Zmudzinski and Ricky Torres came up a bit short of the win, finishing in 3:26.85 to the Tigers’ 3:25.82, but it was still a resounding way for the Vikings to end the competition.

“To share that with a team of three other guys that don’t go to state otherwise, that’s really special,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said. “That’s really what makes this nice. The team aspect is what I’ve been craving ever since ... I stopped playing soccer.”

For the girls, Vergara-Grindell finished second Thursday to reigning champ Whitney Rich of McMinnville in the 3,000, setting a PR of 10:46.03 in the process.

That same day, Villalobos went 17-2 in the long jump and finished in the seemingly unlucky third spot, out of automatic qualifying position. She had to wait until Friday to assure a repeat trip to state — which she did in dramatic fashion.

Tumbling to the track at the finish line, Villalobos edged Tigard junior Kaylie Boschma 47.06 to 47.18 in the 300 hurdles — a new event for the sophomore this spring — to make the state cut. She also took fourth in the triple jump (34-1¼) Friday.

But Villalobos will be competing in two events at Hayward Field, as for the second year in a row she picked up a wildcard spot in the long jump. Wildcards are awarded to the two 6A competitors from across all district meets with the best non-automatic qualifying marks. Villalobos posted the longest jump of any district meet third-placer.

“It definitely took some work. I know that,” Villalobos said about getting back to state. “For this year, I’m really hoping to actually place and do good. There was so much pressure put on me this year, and to be able to achieve that again feels amazing.”

While Shannon Hammond just missed qualifying for her second consecutive state meet, she rounded out her high school career in impressive fashion by scoring in all three jumps. On Thursday, she finished fourth in the high jump with a 5-0 clearance. That left Hammond just an inch short of second place, which was claimed by Newberg’s Emma Burridge, the same jumper Hammond bested in a jump-off last year to make state. McMinnville’s Lucy Bellville repeated as league champion with a 5-2 clearance.

Hammond also leaped a personal best of 15-11½ that day to finish seventh in the long jump, and she came back Friday to take seventh in the triple jump (32-10½).

Other scorers for the Forest Grove boys included Richmond (fifth, 200, 23.59; sixth, long jump, 19-6¾), Stewart (fifth, 400, 52.27), Torres (seventh, 400, 52.87), Archer Morgan (sixth, 800, 2:06.39; sixth 1,500, 4:12.73), Everett Fellger (seventh, 800, 2:06.45), Ben Pearson (fourth, 110 hurdles, 15.82; fourth, high jump, 5-10), Zac Collins (fourth, 300 hurdles, 40.98), Auston Clemens (eighth, discus, 128-5), Pavel Lopez Haas (eighth, pole vault, 10-6); and Jon Cirlincione (eighth, triple jump, 38-10¼).

Vikings girls who chipped in points included Ilean Franco (seventh, 200, 27.78), Amber Harper (eighth, discus, 91-10), Bailey Sahnow (eighth, long jump, 15-11), the 4x100 relay of Sahnow, Ashton Carow, Bailey Mickel and Franco (sixth, 52.44), and the 4x400 relay of Carow, Mickel, Franco and Jessica Bickford (eighth, 4:22.33).

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