Graduation did little to gut the Valley Catholic boys’ cross country team.

As a matter of fact, the notoriously nasty upturn that graduation brings didn’t come about at all.

The Valiants return each of their seven 2012 3A State Championship placers, including senior captain Cooper Roach (ninth place) and junior Wilder Boyden (14th overall). Valley Catholic fields a deep and speedy squad that’s eyeing a district championship and a high-ranking trophy at state.

“We have a very motivated group of guys who have put in a lot of time this season,” said head coach Tommy Manning. “We also have some great leaders on the team this season. If we keep everyone healthy, I think this group has a lot of potential. We have a lot of freshman guys out this season, so I’m very excited to see what they can do.”by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Cooper Roach and the Valley Catholic boys cross country team has their sights set on a high place at the 3A State Championships this season.

Junior Nathaniel Trobough; senior team captain Michael Leslie; and sophomores Nick Smith, Aidan Gillespie, Jacob Dicken and Howie Howerton all scored points at the state meet last season. Varsity newcomers include freshman Jacob Godshalk and sophomores Alex Kiss and Ben Davidson. Davidson is out for cross country for the first time and also plays for the Valiant soccer team.

“He’s a very tough runner and will be an immediate contributor,” said Manning. “Trobough is a very hard worker and has improved a lot since his freshman year and will be in the varsity mix. Godshalk and Alex Kiss have had some great workouts so far and should help round out the top five or six.”

Roach won state track championships in both the 800-meter dash and 1,500 last spring, and Boyden placed fourth in the 3,000 meters. Manning said both trained hard over the summer and believes both are poised for great cross country seasons. Their preparation efforts and the amount of talent encircling Valley’s top two has them right at the top of District One.

“I think we should contend for district title,” said Manning. “Catlin Gabel and OES always put together good teams. Last year Catlin had 25 guys out, so it will be interesting to see what they do. Sisay Gillock of Portland Christian is the returning 2A state 1500- and 3000-meter champion and will be running toward the front.”

Valiant ladies

Valley Catholic’s Maricela Jaroch exploded on the 3A cross country scene last year as a freshman, taking third at the District One championship and sixth at state. She’s one of the Valiant ladies’ top candidates to take over for Josephine Chau, who took fourth at state in 2012. by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Maricela Jaroch and the Valley Catholic girls cross country team want to be a factor in the Special District One this fall.

“Maricela is running with a lot of confidence and will be a contender at districts and state,” said head coach Eric Berge.

Sophomore Ermina Lee (24th at state last season) and seniors Grace Mannen (50th at state), Annika Holstrom (36th at state) and Morgan McDougal are all back as well. Junior Hannah Rehm who was part of the 4 x 400 relay track team that won state last season joined the cross country team. Rehm has that track-closing speed and strength that’s vital at the finish line of bristly cross country races.

“We graduated three of our top runners, but return an experienced group,” said Berge. “Five of our runners have raced at the state meet, and that experience will help us this fall. We have tremendous leadership from our returning seniors. They set the tone for our program with their attitude and dedication.”

Berge said Catlin Gabel is always the Valiants’ toughest competition in the district, and they return a strong team again this season.

“Our team is motivated to compete for a district title and return to the state meet this fall,” said Berge.

The Valiants open their season their season Sept. 9 with a Special District One Pre-District Meet.

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