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Lille and Sophie French ran in the state cross-country meet and played a state playoff game on the same day



MATTHEW SHERMAN - Lillie French and her sister will both play soccer for the University of Santa Clara next year.MATTHEW SHERMAN - Sophie French helped the Lakeridge cross-country team to a 10th place finish at the state meet this year.Growing up, Lakeridge twins Sophie and Lillie French played virtually every sport that was available to them. There was basketball, soccer, swimming, water polo, baseball, softball, tennis and track in their childhoods.

Eventually the sisters, now seniors in high school, knew they would have to pare down what they would compete in, but maybe not as much as you might think.

The Frenchs transferred to Lakeridge from Washington after their sophomore years. Both were standout soccer players but Sophie took her sophomore year off from high school soccer to run cross-country.

She enjoyed the sport and the camaraderie that came with it.

“I remember her telling me how fun it was. That it was an individual sport but that the team aspect of it was really cool to be a part of,” Lillie French said.

At Bellevue High School, the programs didn't afford the flexibility to allow athletes to compete in both sports at the same time but, when the family moved to Lake Oswego, that possibility was suddenly on the table.

Girls soccer coach Karl Granlund and cross-country coach Scott Spear worked with the sisters to provide a manageable schedule during the week, allowing them to compete for both teams.

There was certainly an adjustment period and it made for some hectic and tiring evenings, but the Frenchs were able to handle the load plus a full slate of classes.

“It wasn't easy at times but it was definitely enjoyable,” Sophie said.

On Mondays and Fridays, the sisters would attend both cross-country and soccer practice. Tuesdays and Thursdays generally consisted of soccer games, Wednesdays and occasionally Saturdays, were cross-country meets. It all added up to a considerable workout.

“We tried to go to as many practices as we could to show our coaches that we were really committed to both teams,” Sophie said.

But both sisters loved being able to compete for both teams and thrived with the busyness of their schedules.

However, a potential snag loomed late in the season. Early in the fall, the sisters realized that the state cross-country meet in Eugene was scheduled for the same day as the first round of the state soccer playoffs.

The Pacers knew they would almost certainly qualify for the playoffs in soccer and, with a mix of experienced seniors and a talented incoming crop of freshmen, the cross-country team could also qualify for state.

“Last year we just missed out and this year it was definitely a goal to get the whole team to qualify,” Sophie said.

The soccer team lived up to expectations with both Sophie and Lillie making huge contributions. The Pacers came alive in the second half of the season and not only made the playoffs, but found themselves ranked in the top-10.

“We had a ton of chemistry this year and really came together which made for an exciting season,” Lillie said.

At the district cross-country meet, Lakeridge ran well, taking third place and earning a trip to Eugene.

Fortunately for the sisters, the soccer team earned home field advantage with its ranking and was able to petition for an evening game. That at least gave the Frenchs the option to try and compete in both events. But, for the twins, there was never a doubt.

“We really like doing things like that. It was exhilarating,” Sophie said.

The team made the drive to Eugene for the early afternoon competition and, in a steady drizzle, the Frenchs ran well, finishing less than 30 seconds apart, helping the Pacers to a 10th place finish as a team.

Granlund also made the trip down to watch his players run before they all made the nearly two-hour drive back to Lake Oswego for an elimination game against Grants Pass.

By this time, the drizzle had turned into a steady downpour, turning the sidelines at Lakeridge into ponds.

But the Pacers thrived in the tough conditions, picking up a 3-0 victory. Lakeridge would advance to the quarterfinals before losing 1-0 to No. 1 and eventual state champion Jesuit.

Both Lillie and Sophie would make first-team all-league in girls soccer and, in fact, the sisters have both verbally committed to continue playing together next year at the University of Santa Clara.

“It wasn't something we planned but we both loved the campus and the atmosphere,” Lillie said.

But there's little time to relax after the busy fall. Shortly after wrapping up their successful cross-country and soccer seasons, the sisters started practicing for the swim season. Then, in the spring, they each plan to compete in track, something they couldn't do last year because their club soccer schedule was too rigid.

“We didn't do much differently. We just made sure we stayed hydrated and kept our energy up. I think it would have been a lot harder if the soccer game was first and then the race,” Lillie said.

It will be a busy and active finish to their senior years in high school but neither Sophie or Lillie would have it any other way.

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