Lions girls' cross country begins Northwest Oregon Conference title defense
Girls won first conference championship since 1998 last year
St. Helens girls' cross country is ready to defend its first Northwest Oregon Conference championship since 1998.
Josie Hanna is a senior back from winning her first Northwest Oregon Conference title after she, Mackenzie Trainer, Krista LaMunyon, Genny Luttrell, Cheyenne Trainer and the since-graduated Angela Willson and Jennifer Prevish reached the Class 5A state meet for the first time since Alisha Haresnape went as an individual in 2007.
"We've just got a big target on our back," Lions coach Gerry Tinkle said. "[The girls] have a sense of team, they're working together, they're having fun and they're laughing, which is so important."
Ben Johnstun, also a returning senior, came up third in the boys' conference championships and was 29th at state as he became the first Lions boy to qualify since Bryan Strang in 2013.
Sandy's Michael Calloway won the boys' individual conference title, and Walter Vail of Crater (Central Point) won the state title.
Olivia Brooks of Summit (Bend) won the girls' crown at state.
Jared Barley is a senior captain this season as he returns with Johnstun, senior Brendan Fugere and junior Dakotah Camberg.
The Lions boys won their last conference title in 2012.
St. Helens goes for a traditional preseason run on Hamburger Hill so named because it 'turns your legs into hamburger' near Tinkle's house, after which it enjoys a cookout.
The Lions are scheduled to open at the 26-team Nike Bill Champion Invitational, which includes conference rivals Hillsboro and La Salle Prep, at 4 p.m. on Sept. 1 at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro.
This year's Northwest Oregon Conference meet is set for Oct. 26 at Blue Lake Park in Gresham as Liberty High, the defending boys' team champion and host at Meriwether National Golf Club in Hillsboro, ascends to Class 6A this fall.
The state meet is set for Nov. 5 at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Summit's boys won their fifth state championship in a row last year, and the Storm girls won their eighth in as many years.
St. Helens has never won a state team or individual trophy.
St. Helens Lions
CONFERENCE: Class 5A, Northwest Oregon Conference
COACH: Gerry Tinkle
2015 FINISH: Boys fifth in conference, Ben Johnstun finished 29th at state; Girls won conference title, finished 12th at state
Sept. 1 St. Helens at Nike Bill Chapman Invitational, 4 p.m., Rood Bridge Park, Hillsboro
Sept. 3 St. Helens at Ultimook Race Invitational, 8:15 a.m., Hydrangea Ranch, Tillamook
Sept. 7 St. Helens at Northwest Oregon Conference Preview, 4 p.m., Blue Lake Park, Gresham
Sept. 17 St. Helens at Three-Course Challenge, 9:15 a.m., Camp Rilea, Warrenton
Sept. 21 St. Helens, Parkrose, Sandy at Hillsboro
Sept. 23 St. Helens at Meriwether National Cross Country Classic, 4 p.m., Hillsboro
Sept. 29 St. Helens at Trojan Relays, Trojan Recreation Park, Rainier
Oct. 12 La Salle Prep, Milwaukie, Sandy at St. Helens, McCormick Park
Oct. 14 St. Helens at Sandelie Cross Country Invitational, noon, Wilsonville
Oct. 18 St. Helens at Valiant Invitational, Valley Catholic High School, Beaverton
Oct. 26 St. Helens at Northwest Oregon Conference Championships, Blue Lake Park, Gresham
Nov. 5 Class 5A State Championships, at Lane Community College, Eugene