Forest Groves cross country teams run a tough slate of early-season meets so they can peak in time for districts

The Forest Grove cross country team began the season by running in the toughest meets that coach Sue Fleskes could find.

“You want to run against the best you can possibly run against,” Fleskes says. “I try to put the kids in as quality of meets as I can so they can see what’s out there.”

On Monday, Fleskes found out that this weekend’s Yakima Sunfair Invitational — the most high profile meet the Vikings were signed up for — was postponed because of bad air conditions due to forest fires. Because of scheduling conflicts, Forest Grove will have to scrap the meet. Even so, as the Vikings head into Pacific Conference competition, they have still run in three quality meets.

Forest Grove began the season at the Night Meet. Fleskes used that event as a time trial to find out who to put on the varsity and who to put on the JV team.

Even after the meet, though, those positions fluctuate. Fleskes’ rule is that if a JV runner turns in a better time than a varsity runner, they will switch places during the next meet.

“We actually have gold vertical stripes that our varsity runners wear on their uniforms,” Fleskes says. “If you lose your stripes because someone on the JV beat you, you have to physically turn them in.”

The Vikings followed up the Night Meet with the Trask Mountain Assault and then went to the Festival of Champions.

The tough preseason competition paid off when the Vikings had their first dual meet of the season last Wednesday against Newberg and Century.

The Viking boys took first place as a team with four runners in the top five overall. Seth Berdahl came in second place (17:23), Judd Parson took third place (17:24), Michael Garcia finished fourth (17:35) and Connor Pitt was fifth (17:39). In addition, Brayan Cruz took eighth place (17:55) and Camden Kennedy finished ninth (18:01).

The Forest Grove girls took second place as a team, losing to Newberg by a single point.

“We just let some people go by us at the very end who should not have done that,” Fleskes says. “We should never have lost that meet based on talent. But, we did.”

Rubi Vergara-Grindell took second place overall (20:54), Elena Torry-Schrag took third place (21:19), Emilia Anderson finished in sixth (21:50), Kimberly Heesacker claimed eighth (22:04) and Julia Khoury took ninth place (22:17).

Despite allowing the team victory to slip away from them, Fleskes says that the Lady Vikings are eager to repeat their success from last season when they won the district meet and qualified for the state meet for the first time.

“They’re really eager to go back and they’ve been working really, really hard to that end,” Fleskes says.

Fleskes tried to use the defeat to Newberg as a learning tool for the girls.

“That was just a racing error,” Fleskes says. “We talked a lot about that.”

That introspective look into their own performance is one of the reasons for the Vikings’ success on the course over the last few seasons.

“I have the kids journal after every workout and after every meet,” Fleskes says. “They write down times and how they did and how they feel about it and try to take something positive out of every race and what they could do better.”

Fleskes does not want to predict how the rest of the season will go. What she does know is that she wants to use each meet to prepare the teams to peak at the end of the season.

“I never predict,” Fleskes says. “I’m a little superstitious in terms of predicting. But, these are all learning situations. Our sights are on the district meet.”

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