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The Tri-Valley Conference's district champion in the girls 1,500-meter run will complete in cross counry and track and field for the Saints of Gresham

Gladstone High Schools Avery Marshall confirmed her commitment to Mt. Hood Community College alongside her mother Alicia, father Tim, and sister Ariel during a June 5 signing ceremony in the main office.Gladstone High School distance runner Avery Marshall was undecided when it came to picking a college.

Then Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham came around with an athletic scholarship and an opportunity for Marshall to compete in both cross country and track and field for the Saints.

That did it.

Marshall made her decision official during a June 5 signing ceremony in front of family, friends, and coaches in the Gladstone front office.

"I'm so excited and so grateful for all of this," Marshall said. "I didn't really know where I was going. I wasn't too worried about it for some reason, but I knew I wanted to pursue sports in college somehow.

"So, once Mt. Hood offered, I was immediately super-excited about it."

Marshall excelled in cross country, swimming, and track and field for the Gladiators, although her running career took an unexpected detour when she suffered a torn ligament in her left ankle the summer before her junior year.

The injury required surgery, and although she was still able to compete with the swim team, she had to sit out her junior season of cross country and track and field.

"I never thought that I'd be able to bounce back from my ankle injury," she said.

Marshall's senior year started off better than expected when she placed fourth at the Tri-Valley Conference cross country district championships, helping pace the Gladiators to a team title.

In the spring, Marshall won the 1,500-meter district title in a personal best 5 minutes, 12.58 seconds at the Tri-Valley Conference track and field championships, earning one of the league's automatic berths to the OSAA Class 4A state championships at Mt. Hood Community College.

At the state meet, Marshall met with Mt. Hood women's cross country coach Kelly Holding and some of the other Saints coaches. Those talks turned into a serious discussion about Marshall committing to MHCC, a scholarship offer followed a couple of weeks later, and, finally, Marshall signed.

"It seems so amazing," Marshall said. "I'm really excited to be a part of their team because the coach talked about how they're really big on 'family' and teamwork and not only improving as individuals, but also improving as a team."

What kind of impact could Marshall make as an incoming freshman?

She ran a personal best 22:22.4 at the Estacada Invitational cross country meet in October, which would have put her in the middle of the pack — and third among Mt. Hood's runners — at the Northwest Athletic Conference championships. And the 5:12.58 she rank in the 1,500 last month would have placed eighth and scored one team point for MHCC at the NWAC track and field championship. So, yes, she has a chance to make a significant impact with the Saints.

"I've always been pretty good at stepping up to the plate wherever the expectations are, so I plan on trying to get myself better, trying to run near the front half of the pack, for sure," she said. "I'm sure that the team I'm about to join is really going to push me to do that, so I definitely want to go into college with the intention of getting better every meet."

Marshall was to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, which means earning a two-year Associate of Arts Degree before she applies for Mt. Hood's dental hygiene program — another two-year program, leading to an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Marshall considered some other colleges, but she never found anything that she could truly wrap her arms around.

During her junior year, she and her father, Tim, put together a swimming profile on the popular Next College Student Athlete website. That generated a few scholarship offers from a handful of schools on the East Coast, but Marshall said she never took any of the offers seriously because she had no interest in moving out of state.

Closer to home, Marshall applied and got accepted to Portland State University, Oregon State University in Corvallis, Linfield College in McMinnville, and Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

"When I got in, I thought, 'Oh, yeah, I'll go there,'" she said. "And then when I realized how many student loans I was going to have to take out …

"I was thinking that I was going to go to Portland Community College, because that was all that I could really afford."

Then Mt. Hood Community College made her an offer that changed everything.

"I thought my only option to compete in college would be swimming and I think that's why we made the online profile my junior year," Marshall said. "And then, all of a sudden, when the East Coast schools came in with offers for swimming, I was like, 'I don't know if I want to swim in college. I think I'd much rather run.'

"I never thought that I would be able to run in college. I always thought that I would swim. So, now, I'm super-thankful that I get to run, because I've always loved running."

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