Hillsboro-area cross-country teams are all hoping to be well represented at the state meet in Eugene

Can history repeat itself for Liberty’s girls cross-country team?

Led by then-freshman prodigy Rachel Khaw, the Falcons’ 2012 cross-country season was a superlative one, as last October the team edged Wilsonville by a single point at the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet to become the first harrier squad — boys or girls — to advance to the state meet in school history. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Glencoe cross country runners Abe Teklu (425), Scott Ackerman (403), Miles Rouches (420) and Mason Rouches (419) get off to a fast start at last Friday's Bill Chapman Invitational.

The following week in Eugene, boosted by Khaw’s 10th-place individual result, Liberty finished in 10th place.

With many of that team’s top seven returning this fall, the Falcons figure to be in the mix again at this year’s district meet, slated for Oct. 23 at Blue Lake Park in Fairview. And with pretty much everybody back on the boys’ side, Liberty could double its fun with two teams in the mix for state qualification.

“Both races, I think at the Night Meet and then (at the Bill Chapman Invitational), everybody is ahead of last year,” Falcons coach David Douglas said. “We’re quite a bit faster than what they ran at the Night Meet last year, and then (at the Chapman), most kids were a minute or two, some were even two minutes faster than last year.”

Khaw appears primed for another standout season and is once again ready to pull fall double duty. She is also an all-star midfielder for Liberty’s girls soccer team. Last Friday, she finished fourth in the Chapman, the top result of any female runner from a Hillsboro school. Her time of 19 minutes, 56 seconds on Rood Bridge Park’s challenging and hilly course was close to two minutes faster than her mark in 2012.

“Rachel’s right up there where she usually is, and that’s where we kind of expect her,” Douglas said.

The Falcons did graduate their second runner, Isabelle Cisco — who took seventh place in the NWOC district meet — off of last year’s state qualifying squad, but the rest of the top six ladies are back.

Alexanna Fisher and Kiley Bonin were the team’s third and fourth runners a year ago, and sisters Sydney and Megan Rose also return. Senior Rebekah Fookes, who is out for her first season of cross-country, is showing some potential, having finished in the team’s second spot last Friday. And Hannah Hill, a junior transfer from Sacramento, Calif., looks to be in the varsity mix, as she was the team’s fifth runner.

Despite all of the available talent, though, a return trip to Eugene is not a guarantee.

“I think it’s a little bit tougher this year for them,” Douglas said. “I think some of the other teams have improved and I guess we won’t be surprising anybody ... this year like we did the last year. I think we were not on the radar.”

As for the boys team, Michael Francy is already in fine form for the Falcons. Eleventh at the district meet a year ago, he led the squad with a fourth-place effort last Friday, dipping under 17 minutes for the first time ever.

“That’s a really bright spot,” Douglas said. “Last year we had five or six guys within 30 seconds of him, so we gotta get those guys into closer contact with him.”

“Those guys” include Dominick Marshall, Austin Finster and Jonathan Fookes. Another returner, Alex Dickinson, has also been running in the team’s top seven in the early goings.

“We’re not really replacing anybody,” Douglas said. “We’re just building on what we did last year.”

Century Jaguars

Numbers are up for the Jaguars, who may not contend for team state meet berths but boast two of the most promising runners in the league.

“We’ve got a very young group,” coach John Gill said of his team of 42. “It’s a big group. It’s the biggest I’ve ever had.”

After running just two meets in 2012 — and sporting a personal best of over 21 minutes — sophomore Angel Salazar stamped himself as a Pacific Conference contender with his second-place, sub-17-minute effort at the Chapman last Friday. Gill said that time was the third-fastest by a Century boy in school history on that course.

“He’s very intense, and he’ll just run solid all the time,” Gill noted. “He’s very, very young, so I have to let him know that you’ve got to take days off, you’ve got to pull back sometimes. Easy runs are just that, easy runs.”

Other top runners on this year’s team include Drew Scott, Ryan Barclay and Caleb Younk.

And for the girls team, track star Braanna Weber has turned out for cross-country for the first time as a junior and already appears to be adapting quite nicely. She was 11th last Friday in 20:45, which Gill said was the fastest at that course by a Jaguars girl.

This past spring, Weber turned in one of the best performances of any athlete at the conference district meet, finishing second in the 1,500, 800 and 300 hurdles to qualify for state.

“The first couple weeks of practice was kind of tough, because she’s not used to running that much,” Gill said. “But now she’s understanding that, ‘OK, I can do this.’ And I keep telling her, ‘You’re going to reap the benefits of this come track season.’ She’s kind of bought into it.”

Other girls team leaders include Mira Gill, Kyra Jogensen and Ryann Fadden.

Glencoe Crimson Tide

Optimism is running high for the Crimson Tide.

Coach Dennis Rice is enjoying the largest turnout during his three-year tenure. Several returners are already showing great improvement, and the boys team could be a darkhorse contender in the Pacific Conference.

“I am extremely impressed with both sides of our team,” Rice said last Friday at the Bill Chapman Invitational. “We have over 50 kids out this year, which is the biggest I’ve ever had. We only have five seniors on the team, too, so we’re looking forward to continuing to grow this program.”

The first runner Rice mentioned is junior Kari Zickel, who appears to be continuing the progress she made during the spring track season, when she was sixth in the 1,500 at the district meet. On Friday, she was 34th in the girls race and ran a nine-second personal best, dipping under 22 minutes for the second time in her career. Impressively, her time was almost four minutes faster than the one she turned in at the same meet in 2012.

“Our boys team looks phenomenal,” Rice said. “I’m super impressed with how hard those guys have worked all summer long and obviously it shows.”

Senior twins Mason and Miles Rouches look to lead Glencoe’s charge this season. Mason won the boys varsity race at the Chapman, matching his personal best, and Miles was not far behind in ninth. Mason also brings state meet experience to this year’s squad. He took fifth in the league — leading the Tide to a sixth-place result — and 46th at the state meet last season.

Classmate Abe Teklu rounds out a solid 1-2-3 punch for the Tide. He was 12th at the 2011 district meet. Rice was also pleased with the efforts of his fourth through sixth runners at the meet, Landon Apeland, Nate Johnson and Brian Gerig.

As for the Tide ladies, they did lose 2012 state qualifier Rachel Gibbs to graduation. Erin Ruark, Megan Lince, McKenna Wilson and Ashlee Brown rounded out the top five at the Chapman, and Chloe Harris also returns.

Hillsboro Spartans

The Spartans welcome a new coach in Derek Lopez, who takes over for Bill Kaemmer. Lopez is a 2007 Hilhi graduate and ran in college at Western Oregon.

“We had a decent summer with some training,” Lopez said. “We have a few kids I have some high expectations for, but taking over a new program, you have new expectations. I’ve definitely set that standard a little bit high so far.”

Lauren Lykins is back for her senior season and should be at the front of the Spartans’ pack. She is a three-time state qualifier in cross-country — with a best of 46th place in 2012 — as well as a state qualifier in the 3,000 on the track this past spring. She took third place at last year’s district meet behind McMinnville’s Whitney Rich and Newberg’s Erin Sanders.

“She did some really great work this past spring,” Lopez said. “She’s trying to make it a fourth time at state, and so that’s the goal.”

The boys’ leader should be Tim McSpadden, whom Lopez is expecting back soon from an ankle injury. A senior, McSpadden finished 20th at last year’s district meet. Lopez also highlighted senior Johnathon Waters on the boys side and freshman Alana Baldwin-Joiner and junior Mikayla Fisher on the girls side.

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