The Lakeridge boys win the district meet while three LOHS runners earn state berths

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge's Julian Heninger and Lake Oswego's Todd Macdonald battled at last week's district cross country meet. Heninger won the meet with Macdonald taking second. Both runners are headed to state this weekend. 
The Lakeridge boys cross country team fended off a valiant effort from West Linn to win last week's district meet, earning a trip to Eugene this Saturday, while the Pacer girls took second, also earning a berth at state along with three Lake Oswego individuals.

The boys race was expected to be a dogfight between Lakeridge and West Linn and it lived up to its billing.

Lakeridge's Julian Heninger and Lake Oswego's Todd Macdonald set the tone for the race as predicted with the pair pulling away from the field at around the two-mile mark.

Macdonald hung with Heninger for as long as he could. The pair finished in a virtual dead heat in a race earlier this season.

But Macdonald was hampered by a recent injury, having punctured his foot on a tree root. Heninger had a very strong finish to the race and won in a time of 16:19.18.

Heninger will now look to wrap up his high school cross country career on a very positive note by getting onto the podium and contending for a state title while the Lakeridge boys will look to earn a team trophy as well.

“It's been my goal all year to peak at this meet and I'm really excited to go with the the whole team,” Heninger said.

Macdonald took second, easily qualifying for state individually.

“I felt a lot more tired than normal since I hadn't run in a week but I did what I could. I'd like to get on the podium at state and maybe even go top-five,” Macdonald said.

Shortly behind Macdonald was a large group of eight individuals who all finished within six seconds of each other.

A pair of Lions led that pack but Lakeridge freshman Leo Lukens and Colton Ansberry took fifth and sixth respectively, each turning in huge performances.

For the Pacers to hold on for the district title, their fourth runner would need to turn in a strong finish. Lakeridge received that from senior Kevin Mertz who took 12th in a time of 17:06.91 to clinch the title for the Pacers.

Noah Belcik was equally impressive for Lakeridge, taking 15th with his best time of the year on what would prove to be a tough course in wet weather.

For Lake Oswego, Philip Kearns took 18th in 17:30 and Brendan Holser finished in 22nd as the Laker team finished fourth.

In the girls race, Grant was dominant, placing all five of its top runners in the top-eight overall. That left only a handful of berths at state but Lakeridge's Kelly O'Neill and Lake Oswego's Shea Vallaire and Anna Peaslee both qualified.

O'Neill hung with the frontrunners for the majority of the race, matching a trio of Grant teammates stride for stride in the early going.

Late in the race, Grant's top two runners would pull away but O'Neill would take third place, finishing in just under 19 minutes.

“I just tried to run my own race. I went out well but just fell off in the last 1000 (meters),” O'Neill said.

Vallaire wound up in no man's land for much of the race. The lead pack got ahead of her but Vallaire stayed in front of a large pack behind her and ran much of the race by herself.

She also fought through a minor injury to run a tough race and take fifth place individually in 20:32.60.

“When I started, I didn't really feel it but my shoe nearly fell off so I was a little worried about that. My goal was just to stay close to Kelly for as long as I could,” Vallaire said.

After Vallaire, the battle for state berths picked up. Peaslee ran a very strong race for the Lakers and came close to matching her best-ever time, which was set earlier on a much faster course at Concordia.

She took ninth place in 20:44.92 and will head to state with Vallaire.

Lakeridge clinched its team berth at state with its depth. Lia Newman and Laura Manning finished back-to-back in 13th and 14th respectively. Laura Suzuki was just 10 seconds behind in 17th place and Dorothy Wang rounded out the Pacers' top five by taking 10th.

The state meet will be this Saturday at Lane Community College. The girls race begins at 2:25 p.m. and the boys race begins at 3 p.m.

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