Both Vikings and Braves have reason for optimism after last week's season opener

At least for cross-country, the Vikings and Braves couldn’t wait for September to get going.

Ushering in the fall 2014 preps season with a bang, the Forest Grove and Banks harriers were two among nearly four dozen teams that competed in Wilsonville’s annual Night Meet last Thursday.

In their first competition under new head coach Adrian Shipley, the Vikings gave a tantalizing glimpse at what could be another special season.

On the boys’ side, Forest Grove put six runners in the top six in their respective 3,000-meter races, and three Viking girls recorded top-seven finishes. Races were staged by class year (freshmen, sophomores, etc.), and the event also included novice and open races.

Archer Morgan, Murimi Nyamu and Seth Berdahl showed their front-running triumvirate potential by finishing at or near the front of the boys upperclassman races.

Morgan even provided the Vikings with a winner by taking the senior boys race in 9 minutes, 0.3 seconds, besting Franklin’s Griffin Drake by 11 seconds. Morgan chopped more than 30 seconds off the time he posted at last year’s Night Meet while Berdahl, a state qualifier in the 3,000 on the track this past spring, was not far behind in sixth place (9:18.2).

Nyamu almost gave the team another victor but ultimately settled for second in the junior boys race, won by West Linn’s Roman Ollar, who was eighth in last year’s state meet. Ollar finished in 8:56.3 — the fastest time of the day out of more than 700 runners — and Nyamu was close behind in 9:03.2. In fact, Morgan (second), Nyamu (third) and Berdahl (12th) gave Forest Grove three runners in the overall top 12 at the event.

In his debut high school competition, Max Norman finished fourth in the freshman boys race in 10:09.3. Marist’s Jerik Embleton won in 9:45.6 and was the only competitor in the race to break 10 minutes.

In other notable results, Hyrum Hansen ran 9:57.4 to finish 13th in the sophomore boys race, and Fidel Bucio-Gallardo (11:16.5) and Christian Guerra (11:27.2) went 3-5 in the novice division.

On the girls’ side, Rubi Vergara-Grindell got her senior year off to a fine start with a third-place finish in the senior girls race, finishing in a quick 10:56.9. Vergara-Grindell ran the seventh-fastest time overall of nearly 600 female finishers, and was 30 seconds faster than at the 2013 Night Meet. Sunset’s Nicole Griffiths, a junior, was the fastest female finisher overall on the day in 10:30.4.

Two other Forest Grove varsity returners from last year, Ellie Schnorr (12:09.6) and Elissa Anderson (12:37.5), finished 16th and 23rd in the sophomore girls race, respectively. And Hannah Berdahl ran well, taking seventh in the freshman girls race in 12:10.7. Lydia Gronseth added a fifth place in the novice girls race in 14:13.7.

The Vikings held out senior Kimberly Heesacker, who trained very well over the summer and won the Viking Vengeance 10K road race in July.

As for Banks, 11 runners represented the Braves at the meet. Hannah White (12.22.8) and Josie O’Harrow (13:08.8) showed great promise in the freshman girls race, taking 14th and 23rd, respectively. The girls team’s top returner from last year, Jamie Borchers, was 35th in the junior girls division in 12:36.8, more than 45 seconds quicker than her 2013 Night Meet performance.

Of the four Braves boys who competed, Erik Larsen and Kane Hilliard turned in the top performances, finishing close together in the sophomore boys race in 135th (12:23.2) and 139th (12:31.2), respectively.

Both Forest Grove and Banks are off until this weekend, when the Vikings and Braves are scheduled to race in the Ultimook Race XC Invitational in Tillamook on Saturday.

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