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One Kavulich signs up with the PSU Vikings, the other with the Portland Pilots

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Scappoose High standouts (from left) John Kavulich, Linnaea Kavulich and Jerad Toman sign letters of intent for college athletics on Wednesday at Scappoose High School.The road to Portland will be a little more traveled starting this fall.

Three athletes from Scappoose High School have signed letters of intent to compete collegiately in the Rose City.

Football quarterback Jerad Toman is headed to Portland State.

So is distance runner Linnaea Kavulich.

Her brother, John, will make tracks to the University of Portland.

The trio — surrounded by family, friends and Scappoose teammates — celebrated the beginning of the next phase of their athletic careers at a signing ceremony Wednesday in the Scappoose gym.

The Kavulich twins say they came to their college decisions separately, even though they have plenty of things in common, including the honor of serving as co-valedictorians for the Class of 2018.

"Two of the most talented and hardest-working athletes I've ever coached," Scappoose track coach David Harley said. "I think they're going to have a lot of success at the college level."

Each Kavulich has solid thinking behind their choice of college.

Linnaea has been on board with PSU for a few months. She is looking at physical therapy or pre-med studies.

"I took anatomy this year and found it super interesting," she said.

John settled on UP more recently. He hopes to study math and physics and eventually work with atoms and particles.

But the opportunity to be a part of a national power in men's distance running — the Rob Conner-coached Pilots were second in the NCAA Division I cross country championships last season — was highly enticing.

"I wanted to go to a school with a really solid running program, to get the most out of my athletic ability and focus on academics after that," John said. "It's going to be amazing to run with them on a regular basis."

Linnaea was attracted to the status of the cross country and track programs at Portland State.

"She wanted to get in on an up-and-coming team," Harley said. "They've got new coaches who are enthusiastic and are building a program, and she wanted to be a part of that."

Linnaea said she wanted to stay in the state, and she liked the team and coaches at PSU.

"It felt like the right fit for me," she said, "and it's nice that John will be pretty close, too."

John ran distance races in middle school (as well as playing baseball and basketball), but at that age, Linnaea — born six minutes before John — was a sprinter, jumper and volleyball player.

"I started track in seventh grade, probably in response to Linnaea — I like to copy everything she does," John said.

For Linnaea, the transition to distances happened almost organically.

"She was never intending to be a distance runner," Harley said.

The turning point came shortly after she turned out for cross country as a freshman.

"I just seemed like a fun thing to try," she said. "I really don't know why I wanted to. But it ended up working out really well."

Her first high school cross country race came at the Ultimook Race XC Invitational in Tillamook.

"It was known for being super muddy and crazy there," she recalled. "I ended up getting second and it was really fun."

Linnaea and John, who have no other siblings, now own the school records in their respective 3,000 meters (and Linnaea has the fastest 1,500 time in Indians history).

So running has become a big part of their lives and life together.

"We don't do all of our runs with each other, but we're usually with each other training," Linnaea said. "We don't talk a lot at home about running, but it's a big part of our relationship. It's brought us closer together."

Now they'll be close in Portland, only a short drive or bus trip apart, with Linnaea in an apartment with friends and John on campus in North Portland living with fellow Pilots cross country runners.

Loving football

Toman, like Linnaea, liked what he saw at Portland State and what it could offer athletically.

He had some offers to play college baseball, "but football is by far my favorite sport. I love football. It's my passion," he said.

Initially, he considered continuing in football at D-III schools, with George Fox and Puget Sound in line for his services.

Portland State will be an even bigger step up for the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder, who ran the read-option offense at Scappoose and used his 4.36 speed in the 40-yard dash to cause problems for opposing defenses.

"I love the coaching staff at Portland State," Toman said. "They told me, 'At your level, you're probably like a No. 1 player, but if you're coming to this college, there's going to be multiple of you, doing everything. It was kind of a challenge to me and I'm up to the challenge."

Toman will join a former Scappoose Indian, defensive end Boogie Davis, who redshirted last season as a Vikings freshman.

Toman said he realizes there will be steps he has to make, as well, before getting onto the field for the Big Sky Conference Vikings.

"It's going to be a big transition," he said. "I just have to grind it out. I have to be in the weight room, be in the playbook, know everything they do, study everything. And then, hopefully, when I get my chance, I can make it happen."

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