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Molalla’s Brianna Loughridge successfully defended her title in the finals of the girls’ 3,000-meter run during Friday’s opening day of the Tri-Valley Conference district track and field championships at North Marion High School.

by: JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Molalla's Brianna Loughridge, pictured here running the 800 at last week's final regular-season home meet, successfully defending her district title in the girls' 3,000-meter run during Friday's finals at North Marion High School.Locked in a three-way battle with Estacada’s Mariah Johnson and La Salle’s Carly Veasy with one lap remaining, Loughridge took charge at the top of the stretch and used an impressive kick to win in a time of 11 minutes, 25.53 seconds

With the victory, Loughridge was the first Molalla athlete to qualify for next week’s OSAA Class 4A state championships at Hayward Field in Eugene.

Molalla’s Darian Baughman also qualified for the state meet by finishing second in the boys’ long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 1 1/4 inches.

Indians’ coach Carl Sniffen compared the girls’ 3,000 to a heavyweight prize fight and praised Loughridge for running a brilliant race.

“Her focus was to try and finish in the top two,” Sniffen said. “Mariah from Estacada went out quickly and Bree was always three or four meters behind her. They put a pretty good gap on third and fourth.

“At about 2,100 meters, the La Salle girl tried to pass Bree, but Bree wouldn’t let her pass, and they both caught Mariah. Then the three of them ran together for about 200 meters and Bree again looked as if she had reached the limit levels of her fitness.”

Actually, Loughridge had another gear.

“The La Salle girl was starting to pull away steadily, Bree caught back up and passed Mariah, and then with about 250 meters to go, she absolutely went after the girl from La Salle. She caught her around the turn and out kicked her to the finish.

“That's why it was like a prize fight. Bree got knocked down, she came back; she got knocked down, she came back. Bree is a fierce competitor. If you just watched her practice at times, you wouldn’t see it. But I’d heard that’s how she ran last year, I’d heard that’s how she ran in cross country, but until today I had never seen it. It’s true. It was a thing of beauty.”

Veasy finished second in 11:32.40, and Johnson was third in 11:45.32.

Sniffen said the performance also could serve as a catalyst for Loughridge and others on Saturday when action gets underway with the boys’ javelin, boys’ triple jump, girls’ pole vault and girls’ discus at noon, followed by the finals the runnings events beginning at 1 p.m.

“You get off to a good start at a meet like this and it’s infectious,” Sniffen said. “I think we’ve seen that in some of our performances. We’ve had kids that have put up PRs (personal records) in the preliminaries and this is where you want that to happen.

“I think it sets up for a really interesting 1,500 tomorrow, because Bree will be coming back in the 1,500 and it will be Emily Bever’s first race since April 16.”

-- Jim Beseda / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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