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Vikings kick off cross-country season

Forest Grove hosts Sprague and McNary for its first meet as a member of the Greater Valley Conference

 - The Forest Grove boys cross-country team breaks from the starting line during last Thursday's double dual meet at Anderson farm.With some of the veterans sitting this one out, Forest Grove’s youngsters got a chance to show their stuff.

Hosting their first-ever Greater Valley Conference meet last Wednesday, the Forest Grove cross-country teams showed they offer plenty of new talent in a double dual staged at the Anderson farm west of the city.

Vikings head coach Adrian Shipley opted to hold out top runners Seth Berdahl, Archer Morgan and Murimi Nyamu on the boys’ side, as well as girls leaders Rubi Vergara-Grindell and Kimberly Heesacker, but that just meant that other runners stepped up on the hilly and extremely challenging 5K course that took runners through grass fields, forested trails and groves of trees.

“The beginning of the season is all about building strength and there is no better course than the Anderson course for just that,” Shipley said by email.

It was also a new course to many on the team, which checked it out two days before the race. The program had not hosted a home meet on the Anderson property since the 2011 season.

“I actually kind of love this course, because I think it’s like the essence of cross-country,” said freshman Hannah Berdahl, who led the Lady Vikings to a split against McNary and Sprague with a third-place finish. “There’s hills and there’s crazy fields of stickers and stuff and it’s just all those extreme hills. I think it’s a good way to start the season so really you know what cross-country’s all about.”

The girls dropped a narrow 27-29 decision to the Celtics and turned back the Olympians 26-29, while the boys easily beat McNary 18-45 and swept Sprague 15-50.

Competing in her first official varsity race, Berdahl paced Forest Grove’s girls with her time of 24 minutes, 18 seconds. McNary freshman Kailey Doutt won the race in 23:21 and teammate Annabel Guptill, who passed Berdahl in the third mile, took second place in 23:57.

Sophomore Ellie Schnorr, who already boasts state meet experience for the Vikings, finished fourth in 24:48. She said she was pleased with how the girls team is shaping up, even early in the season.

“I think we have a lot of depth, and I’m really hoping that for districts ... we can get a lot of girls pretty close together and finish really strong and make it to state,” said Schnorr, who noted that the team has been running a lot of hills lately, which gave her confidence to tackle the course.

The girls team’s other scorers were Elissa Anderson (sixth, 25:33), Elise Unterseher (13th, 26:57) and Brittany Pitarresi (14th, 26:58). Lucia Mendoza (15th, 27:08) and Tara Campbell (23rd, 29:25) also ran in varsity spots. Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG
 - Forest Grove sophomore Ellie Schnorr races to a fourth-place finish last Wednesday during a cross-country meet at Anderson farm.

Like Berdahl, Max Norman was competing in his first varsity race, and he made it a win, leading all boys with a time of 19 minutes, 8 seconds.

“I guess we got a win,” Norman said shortly after finishing. “We went out and I think we swept, so that was pretty cool.”

Another cross-country rookie, sophomore Hyrum Hansen, waged a duel with McNary’s Angel Goemaere down the long final stretch to take second in 19:23, less than a second in front of Goemaere.

“We’ve got a really deep team. It was good to be able to step up myself and run one of those top spots,” Hansen said. “Anybody else on the team could have done the same.”

Indeed, the rest of the Viking boys were not far behind, crossing the finish line in a maroon and yellow wave in their striped singlets.

Daniel Hernandez-Krieger (fourth, 19:57), Duncan Stewart (fifth, 20:26) and Garrett Stewart (sixth, 20:39) rounded out the scoring for Forest Grove, while Riley Stewart (seventh, 20:44) and Rylan Kennedy (eighth, 20:47) also ran in the team’s top seven.

Other than Duncan Stewart, a senior, none of those runners is an upperclassman.

Forest Grove travels to Salem today for a double dual against West Salem and North Salem at Bush Pasture Park. Then the Vikings head to Eugene Saturday for the Northwest Classic invitational meet at Lane Community College.

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