Waylon Nichols was the Lions' top finisher, covering the 3.1-mile course at Hillsboro's Rood Bridge Park in 17:49.5

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - St. Helens junior Waylon Nichols (756) runs alongside Veritas' Cam McChesney (867) and St. Stephens' Seth Bergerson (830) as they try to chase down Mountainside's Allen Hodovan (549) as they near the finish of the Aug. 30 Nike Bill Chapman Invitational at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro.St. Helens' Waylon Nichols is still working through the early-season challenges that go with juggling two high school sports — boys soccer and cross country.

And the Lions' junior is feeling it too, in both calf muscles.

Nichols persevered through the pain in his lower legs at the Aug. 30 Nike Bill Chapman Invitational, placing 32nd in a field of 143 runners to kick off the high school cross country season at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro.

"I felt like I didn't do as well as I could have," said Nichols, who covered the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes, 49.5 seconds. "Both calf muscles have been hurting and today it was kind of the same story.

"Hopefully, I'll start feeling better, eventually."

Last season, Nichols started the fall season playing soccer, and then added cross country midway through the season and ran so well that he finished seventh at the Northwest Oregon Conference district championships and qualified as an individual for the Oregon School Activities Association Class 5A state meet.

"I remember thinking, 'I guess I could do both,'" Nichols said. "I've always been a runner. Throughout middle school, I ran track and I ran a lot of long distance, so it made sense to bring cross country into it.

"It's definitely very challenging, but I believe that honestly because I've done multiple sports like this before."

The Chapman Invite marked the first time Nichols had seen the Rood Bridge Park course, a hilly circuit with multiple running surfaces — grass, dirt, asphalt, and bark chips — and some severe twists and turns that make it one of the state's most demanding courses.

Parkrose's Ahmed Ibrahim won the boys' race in 16:08.2, followed by Jesuit's Jack Bennett in 16:34.7, and West Linn's Avery Cook in 16:39.1.

There were seven other runners who broke 17 minutes, and then came a group of 25 runners, including Nichols, who finished under 18 minutes.

"This course is a very, very hard course," Nichols said. "Probably one of the hardest courses I've ever run."

St. Helens' next five runners all finished within 53 seconds of one another. Junior Cooper Montgomery placed 81st in 20:03.9, junior Evan Garrison was 93rd in 20:37.23, senior Cash Lapping finished 93rd in 20:37.3, junior Isaiah Ebert was 99th in 20:45.9, and junior Jakob Nelson placed 104th in 20:55.78.

Sophomore Nick Brooks also ran in the boys' varsity race for the Lions, finishing 124th in 22:04.17 in his high school cross-country debut.

"I think our boys show a lot of promise," Lions coach Naomi Reedy said. "I am excited that we have this strong junior group and we're just getting warmed up for the season. I think we're pretty pleased with how it went today.

"This meet has been something that we've had on our schedule for as long as I've been coaching, which is over 10 years. They run a great meet, it's a pretty good sampling of local teams, and I think the kids like the course for the most part."

In the girls' race, Lincoln's Kyla Becker ran away from the competition to win in 17:32.2, followed by St. Mary's Academy's Sarah Lyell in 19:15.9, and Jesuit's Hallie Devore third in 19:20.9.

St. Helens had only two runners in the varsity girls' race, with senior Kaitlyn Silva placing 62nd in 23:41.4 and sophomore Hillary Barley finishing 95th in 27:09.6.

• • •

The Lions returned to action at the Sept. 5 NWOC Preview at Blue Lake Park in Fairview, where they were joined by the Scappoose Indians and others from around the league.

Nichols placed fourth in the NWOC Preview, finishing in 17:38.89.

The top three were junior Ahmed Ibrahim of Parkrose, 16:06.83; senior Jack Burns of Wilsonville, 17:23.91; and senior Abdi Ibrahim of Parkrose, 17:36.89.

Fifth was Wilsonville freshman Jacob McClelland, 18:03.08.

Scappoose had two runners in the top nine — freshmen Rowen Suchoski and Luke Suchoski, in 18:11.19 and 18:12.00, good for eighth and ninth, respectively.

With Scappoose junior Gustavo Villalvazo placing 16th in 18:59.62, the Indians were able to take third in the boys team standings.

Wilsonville (34) and Parkrose (64) went 1-2. Then came Scappoose (92), La Salle Prep (98), St. Helens (121), Hillsboro (125), Milwaukie (190) and Putnam (216).

In the girls' race, Scappoose was fourth among the four schools that fielded complete squads. Wilsonville won with 23 points, followed by La Salle Prep (59), Putnam (64) and Scappoose (90).

Top Indian girls finishers: senior Anne Morud, 18th, 24:45.55; junior Etosha Lopez, 23rd, 26:39.78; senior Audrey Demeaux, 25th, 27:06.72; senior Kylee Plank, 26th, 27:10.11; and junior Hailey Keller, 31st, 28:12.78.

St. Helens had two girls in the top 16. Freshman Hannah Hayduk took 14th in 23:26.32, and Silva was 16th in 24:14.31.

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