Mariah Johnson is the teams best chance to grab a state berth

Estacada cross country coach Jon Erickson is optimistic that his runners can be among the best in a loaded Tri-Valley League this fall.

Leading that charge is junior Mariah Johnson on the girls team, who has highlighted her early-season efforts with a fifth-place finish out of almost 100 racers at the Molalla Invitational two weeks ago.

“She’s started the season off really well. She’s shown a lot of improvement in her strength and is 30 to 45 seconds faster than she was last year,” Erickson said. “We expect her to be in that top five at the end of the year and going onto state.”

Juniors Kayla Searls and Nicole Wagner lead the Rangers support pack of runners.

The Tri-Valley is packed with talent on the girls side with LaSalle winning last year’s 4A crown, while Molalla came in third at state.

“We have two teams that are very strong already, so finding a spot into state is difficult,” Erickson said. “We’re hanging in there with some solid supporting runners.”

On the boys side, LaSalle is the clear-cut favorite returning its top three runners from last year’s squad that took third at state. But the league’s second spot to Eugene is expected to be a toss up between a number of teams — Estacada included.

Senior Kyle Beguelin leads the boys side along with Miguel Mendoza, Brendan Fordyce and Micah Jury — a support pack that groups together tightly. Jury, a hurdler during the track season, is running the trails for the first time after coming over from the football team.

“We don’t have that one high-scoring individual, but if we can lower our times and continue to pack together we’ll have a shot,” Erickson said.

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