Falcons sparked by second-place finishes from Michael Francy and Rachel Khaw

For the second year in a row, the Liberty cross-country program created a little bit of history at the Northwest Oregon Conference meet.

Last fall, the Liberty girls became the first cross-country team in school history to qualify for the state meet.

This time around, at last Wednesday’s NWOC meet, staged at Blue Lake Park in Fairview, it was the boys’ turn.

Keyed by Michael Francy’s second-place individual finish, the Liberty boys — this fall’s NWOC dual meet champions — finished as the team runner-up to Wilsonville to punch their ticket to Saturday’s Class 5A state meet at Lane Community College in Eugene. The Wildcats finished the district meet with 49 points, followed by Liberty with 65 and Sherwood with 74.

“We’re satisfied with the way it came out,” Falcons coach David Douglas said. “We targeted trying to make it to state. We obviously would have loved to have won the meet, but we’re glad that the guys are going to get to go for the first time as a team.”

Francy continued his stellar senior season by finishing just behind individual champion Isaac Mitchell of Sandy. Mitchell covered the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 27.6 seconds. Francy followed in 16:39.0. Bryan Strang of St. Helens was well behind in third place in 17:13.0.

“You’ve seen him, just his maturity as a runner and a competitor this year,” Douglas said about his No. 1 runner. “Track season, he still kind of would throw these crazy spurts and do all these kind of crazy things at races. He improved, but he was still kind of doing some off-the-wall type stuff. And this year, he just really learned how to run and compete and just kind of be patient and not give up. It’s really paid off in the results that we’ve seen.”

Jonathan Fookes also chipped in a top-10 result for Liberty, taking ninth place in 17:53.1. Dominick Marshall (18:25.3), Jack Stemm (18:27.4) and Austin Finster (18:27.6) closed out the scoring for the Falcons by going 17-18-19.

Jacob Espinosa (29th, 18:50.0) and Alex Dickinson (33rd, 18:55.7) also competed for Liberty.

Sophomore Rachel Khaw will be joining her male teammates in Eugene after having finished a close second to reigning champion Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville for the second consecutive year to advance as an individual. Rawlings, who became a three-time individual league champion with the victory, was timed in 19:38, with Khaw right behind in 19:40.9. Sandy’s Dalen Richardson was a distant third in 20:44.3.

“I tried to keep up with Taryn the whole time,” Khaw said. “I was hoping for second, so it went about like I thought it would, and I’m pleased with it.”

As for the Liberty girls, they could not quite replicate their second-place finish from 2012, taking fifth this time around. Sandy edged Wilsonville 41-44 for the meet title, followed by Sherwood (58), St. Helens (112) and the Falcons (114).

Alexanna Fisher finished as Liberty’s No. 2 runner. She was 23rd in 22:42.2. Rebekah Fookes closed out her career with a 25th-place effort in 22:46.0. Kiley Bonin (33rd, 23:34.4) and Sydney Rose (35th, 24:02.6) completed Liberty’s scoring, and Morgan Aase (36th, 24:08.9) and Megan Rose (41st, 25:14.0) also participated in the varsity race for the Falcons.

On Saturday, Khaw will race with the Class 5A girls field at 1:15 p.m. The boys race will follow at 1:50.

Last year, Khaw finished 10th, landing on the awards podium and leading the Falcons to a 10th-place team result. She is hoping post another top-10 effort on Saturday, though she will be running this year without her teammates around her.

“I wish the team had made it,” she said. “I’m glad the boys team made it, at least, so they’re there.”

For the boys, Douglas would like to see them turn the table on Wilsonville in Eugene, and he feels Francy is capable of posting a top-10 or top-five finish.

“Whenever you have someone like that, you just never know what you can do at the state level,” Douglas said. “If those other three, four guys can really step it up, who knows what can happen? Anything can happen at state.”

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