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Relay format provides 'speed work' for local teams

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens' Bryan Strang reaches the finish line at Thursday's Trojan Relays. Sprang started his leg in fifth, but caught Lake Oswego on the final stretch.

Strang leads St. Helens to fourth-place finish

As the Trojan Relays were nearing the finish, St. Helens senior Bryan Strang saw an opportunity. He was slated to take the anchor leg of the five-person relay, and it was his time to shine. The Lake Oswego team was in fourth, a sizable but not impossible distance ahead of the fifth place Lions, and Strang knew he had a chance to catch the runner just ahead of him.

“I saw him take off. I just kept my eyes on him the whole time,” said Strang. “I know the course pretty well, and I tried to close the gap as well as I could.”

Inch by inch throughout the two-mile loop, Strang slowly reached the heels of his opponent and as they rounded the final bend, Strang sprang past and sprinted down the stretch to secure the fourth place finish for the Lions.

However exhilarating his finish, all Strang was focused on was the finish line ahead of him and didn't know how close it was until he asked his dad after the race. The result was as much a confidence boost for Strang as it was a win for the Lions.

“It felt really good because this whole season I haven't been kicking hard enough, and now the speed work is starting to pick up on me and I'm getting kicks in and getting faster,” he said. “It's a big motivator for me to see how well I can do by the end of the season.”

'Speed work,' runner slang for shorter workouts much faster than regular race pace, is something that has made the Trojan Relays more popular, according to Lions' head coach Gerry Tinkle. The course is much smaller than what the runners normally race for the district and state championship meets, and a shorter distance allows for athletes to race faster and build up a different type of endurance as the more important meets loom.

“This time of year, most teams are switching to speed work. This is where you start doing the shorter, faster stuff,” said Tinkle. “This is the perfect time to do this, because each runner runs 3,100 meters instead of 5,000.”

Because the race had an unusual format, Tinkle set goals for his teams to finish in the top six. The boys placed fourth, the girls took third and Tinkle was pleased, especially given that the Lions had raced the previous night at the Star City Classic in Salem.

The Lions will have next week off, and pick things up again on Oct. 12 when they travel to Fernhill Park for the Adidas Cross Country Classic.

Scappoose girls finish fifth, Davidson with top time

In spite of sickness that plagued Scappoose, they Tribe had a strong showing at the Trojan Relays. They boys didn't make the top six, but the girls finished fifth with a time of one hour, 14 minutes thanks to a huge race from standout Charlie Davidson.

In her first season after deciding to drop soccer and focus on cross country, Davidson ran her leg in a meet-best 11:29. It was another solid result for Davidson, who is expected to challenge for the individual title at the state meet this fall.

Scappoose went into Thursday's meet focused only on running as hard as the could, and not on where they might finish. This was the first two-mile race for the athletes this season, and combined with the sporadic performances due to illness, the Relays were about individual effort.

“To be able to go out and see how hard you can push yourself on a Thursday... that's what the goal was,” said Tribe coach David Harley. “We weren't really looking to do a whole lot of anything else. We're gonna try to rest up and get healthy for Saturday.”

For the athletes that did race, it was a chance to simply get out and see where they stood.

“You could just tell some of their enthusiasm was there. They have a little more excitement in some of their races. You could just tell by their faces,” said Harley, who credited the upswing to the change in format.

“It was so different,” he said. “It just gets monotonous to kinda do some of the same things all of the time, so I think that was a nice break.”

Next, Scappoose will travel to Philomath on Oct. 5 for the Mariman invite.

Boys results:

1. Forest Grove 50:55

2. Glencoe 53:07

3. Southwest Christian 53:51

4. St. Helens 54:31

5. Lake Oswego 54:32

6. Seaside 58:21

Girls results:

1. Forest Grove 1:05:05

2. Lake Oswego #1 1:06:27

3. St. Helens 1:07:53

4. Glencoe 1:08:18

5. Scappoose 1:14:00

6. Lake Oswego #2 --:--:--

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