Forest Grove gets strong individual performances to split a conference dual meet against Tualatin

All in all, last Wednesday turned out to be a pretty decent day for the Forest Grove track and field teams.

Hosting Tualatin to open their Pacific Conference schedule, the Vikings turned in two highly competitive duals and some solid individual performances that served notice to the rest of the league that Forest Grove brings quite a bit of quality to the NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove sophomore Alyssa Villalobos races to victory in the 300-meter hurdles at last Wednesday's Pacific Conference dual meet against Tualatin. Villalobos won in 50.26 seconds.

Capping the meet with a come-from-behind victory in the 4x400-meter relay, Forest Grove’s boys turned back the Timberwolves 76-64, while the visitors narrowly edged the Lady Vikings, 79-66.

“I saw a lot of determination tonight,” Forest Grove coach Scott McCahon said. “I saw a lot of people gritting their teeth, finishing races, not happy being behind and trying to find something somewhere to get ahead or come back. It was just good to see. It’s great to see kids compete.”

The Vikings boys were particularly strong in the middle and long distances — picking up wins in the 400, 800 and 3,000 — as well as the throws. Tate de Sully was a two-time winner, placing first in the shot put (45 feet, 5½ inches) and discus (137-0). He led teammates Auston Clemons (123-0) and Erich Danzer (116-0) to a sweep in the latter event.

On the track, sophomore Ryan Gochenour showed good early-season form in the 400 with a winning time of 53.52 seconds, just more than a second off of his lifetime best. Ricky Torres passed Tualatin’s Malachi Seib in the homestretch to finish second in 54.18.

As for distance ace Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski, he raced his first 800 in almost two years and cruised to an easy victory in 2:00.74. The Georgetown-bound senior, whose junior track season was abbreviated due to injury, led basically wire-to-wire and won by more than seven seconds, despite wearing racing flats and not kicking at the end.

“With anything anaerobic like this, the first couple times you do them, your legs are always just kind of heavy. I was really pleased with my workout afterward,” said Lizier-Zmudzinski, who went for a mile-and-a-half tempo run after the race. “That lets me know I wasn’t too tired, so that’s good.”

Lizier-Zmudzinski was perhaps most excited, though, about the performance of one of his distance teammates, Murimi Nyamu, who went out hard in the 3,000 and just kept flying.

“He stole the show today,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said. “That was really, really impressive.”

Nyamu lapped every runner but one before crossing the finish line in 9:01.94, the third-fastest time in school history.

The mark was a personal best for the Vikings sophomore — who put in a ton of miles over the winter — by nearly 16 seconds and stamped him as a runner on the rise this season in the conference.

“I feel good. I’m ready to go,” Nyamu said. “It’s going to be a good season.”

Both boys relays also won. The Vikings’ 4x100 quartet of Torres, Jakob Orlowsky, Stacey Clayton and Gio Tayetto nipped the Timberwolves 46.08 to 46.09. And after Forest Grove had trailed for much of the long relay, Torres hauled in Mateo Sundberg during the final strides of the anchor leg to send Forest Grove out with another close win, 3:38.29 to 3:39.37. Gochenour, Christian Guerra and Duncan Stewart also chipped in legs on that relay.

Zac Collins provided a win in the 300 hurdles, edging teammate Orlowsky 44.46 to 44.61.

While the girls did not earn a victory in the team column, they also provided plenty of highlights, thanks in part to Alyssa Villalobos, Rubi Vergara-Grindell and Shannon Hammond.

Though she described her day as “frustrating,” Villalobos picked up victories in both hurdles races and added a second-place finish in the long jump, making her as one of the top all-around performers at the meet. The sophomore wound up just three inches behind Tualatin’s Katrina Moreland — the reigning league triple jump champion — with a mark of 15-11¾. And her time of 17.52 in the 100 hurdles bested the field by almost three-quarters of a second.

But Villalobos perhaps shined brightest in the 300 hurdles, an event she tried for the very first time last Wednesday. Despite struggling a bit in the final 100 meters, she finished in 50.26, more than three seconds ahead of the field. That mark ranks Villalobos fourth in the conference heading into today’s round of duals.

“I like it,” she said about the longer race. “It’s going to take some work to get used to that tiredness, but I think if I put more effort and practice into it, then I think I could go somewhere with it.”

As for Vergara-Grindell, like Nyamu, she excelled in the 3,000 meters. Her time of 11:06.45 was a personal best by nearly 19 seconds, as well as the fifth-fastest performance in school history. The junior also led teammates Emilia Anderson (11:43.72) and Kimberly Heesacker (11:53.00) to a 1-2-3 sweep in the event.

Similar to Villalobos, Hammond pulled triple duty and placed in all three of her events. She was not quite where she wanted to be with her marks, but she did win her specialty, the high jump, with a clearance of 4-10, and she finished second in the triple jump (31-2¾) and third in the long jump (14-5¾).

“We’ve been training through these meets since it’s the beginning of the season, so I’m not too worried about it because my legs were dead going into this meet,” Hammond said. “I’m hoping as the season progresses, I’ll just keep getting better and keep increasing my season PRs, at least.”

Other winners on the girls’ side included Ashton Carow, Ana Orlowsky, Ilene Franco and Bailey Sahnow in the 4x100 relay (54.21), Amber Harper in the discus (90-0), and Alyssa Boyd in the javelin (101-8). Raisa Mlynski (74-8) and Orlowsky (73-6) contributed to a sweep in that event.

Freshman Ellie Schnorr added runner-up finishes behind Tualatin’s Kate Intile in both the 1,500 (5:31.60) and 800 (2:42.09).

The Vikings travel to McMinnville today for a dual before heading to their first invite of the season, the Lower Columbia Invitational in St. Helens, on Saturday.

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