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Preview: Tigers track team prepares for new foes as it will compete in the Pacific Conference this season

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Senior Yulia Graham will be among those providing leadership for a young Tiger team this season.

Amid snowy conditions that limited getting started, the Newberg High track team is back practicing regularly and is looking ahead to its first meet of the season Thursday at Gresham.

The girls' side has plenty of talent and hopes to contend for a league-best showing this season. Coach Brandon Ramey said he expects the girls to come out of the gate strong and steadily progress with each meet.

"Our girls team looks to be pretty deep," he said. "Those girls seem to be picking up where they left off last year and every event is pretty much full across the board. The last seven or eight years we've had pretty dominant boys teams and now it looks like the girls will have a run for a while."

Among the key contributors for the Tigers are junior Rilee Carstensen in the hurdles and senior Lala Frketich in the javelin, among others. Carstensen finished fourth in state last season as a sophomore and Frketich made it to the state finals as well.GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Polevaulter London Russell and the Newberg girls track team is expected to make significant strides after moving into the Pacific Conference.

Both are experienced athletes on this team – something the Tigers lack in certain areas of the squad, Ramey said. What they lack in experience they make up for in talent, though, and Ramey said he expects a number of freshmen and sophomores to provide quality performances in 2019.

Many of the girls on the outdoor team also participated in indoor track during the winter, which Ramey said gives them a major athletic edge going into the season. Either way, they will gain valuable experience once the season gets underway Thursday.

"There's a lot of younger girls that will have to step up," Ramey said. "We just have to get to the meets and see how we do."

After the Gresham meet Newberg travels to rival McMinnville on March 19 for a dual meet. Its next competition isn't for another two weeks after that, when it faces Liberty on the road.

The Chehalem Field and Track Classic — Newberg's home meet — is on April 5. Other teams in attendance will include Beaverton, Central Catholic, Clackamas, Crater, Forest Grove, Franklin, Glencoe, Hillsboro, Lakeridge, Mountainside, North Salem, Sunset, Tualatin and Westview.

For a girls squad that Ramey expects to remain competitive, a move to the Pacific Conference – along with stiff competition in a handful of larger meets – should bring results that will make the community proud, Ramey said.

Competing in the Pacific Conference presents an opportunity to take it a little easier than the Three Rivers League and focus on preparing for bigger meets, rather than where individuals might place in district ones. The upcoming season is one that Ramey believes will be a turning point for the girls' program.

"I'd be disappointed if we weren't right at the top of the conference, if not going for a conference title," he said. "I think we have the depth on both sides and the talent on both sides to compete."

A season preview of the Newberg boys team, along with a full account of the Gresham meet, will appear in the March 20 edition of The Graphic.

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