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Scappoose has mix of runners to line up at Lane CC for Saturday's Class 5A cross-country race

COURTESY PHOTO: JOHN BREWINGTON - Luke Suchoski and the Scappoose Indians boys cross-country team will run Saturday in the Class 5A championships at Lane Community College. While a trophy is probably too lofty, the Scappoose boys cross country has plenty of other goals to reach for in Saturday's state championship race at Lane Community College.

The Indians are in Eugene as one of 13 teams, including three from the Northwest Oregon Conference (champion Wilsonville and third-place Parkrose being the others).

Scappoose placed 11th in the Class 5A title run a year ago, one spot ahead of Parkrose and two notches behind Wilsonville.

On Saturday, the Tribe hopes to challenge the Wildcats and stay ahead of the Broncos, who figure to be better-positioned to score in the state format than they were at district on Oct. 30 at Blue Lake Park.

Scappoose coach Kevin Pinkstaff said he believes his crew appears up to the challenge of coming back with the same intensity it had in preparing for and running at district.

"It's hard to main the same level of focus and drive for state," he said, "especially when their primary and immediate goal was our NWOC competition at the conference championships. But the boys seem pretty movitated."

On paper, the Indians are rated ninth in the meet, with NWOC champion Wilsonville sixth.

"Sixth to ninth is the window we're aiming for," Pinkstaff said.

But Pinkstaff said he is trying to point his boys toward other objectives, as well.

"My emphasis is going to be less about results and more about their approach to it," he said. "I don't know if they have enough perspective to see it, but qualifying for the state meet and having the opportunity to compete there to be really, really special. It's hard to do. It's something very few get to do.

"They can look back on it for the rest of their lives, and they only get a few shots at it, if any. Next year is never guaranteed.

"I don't want them to take it for granted, just because they made it last year and they expected to make it this year. It's still special, and I just hope they treasure the opportunity and run accordingly."

On top of that, for seniors Gustavo Villalvazo and Josh Lull, it will be a final run in cross country and as part of a "special group — this team has bonded well, they're buddies, and they al play their own critical role in chasing their common goals. It's the kind of group all coaches crave.

"We didn't have this level of chemistry last year, and it's been rare that I've coached teams that have that bond these guys have."

Villalvazo and Lull "are both stronger than they've ever been, which is hard to do, and the target will be that they can end their careers with a race effort that justifies all the work they've put in the last four years," Pinkstaff said.

Those two lead the pack that starts, typically, with sophomores Luke and Rowen Suchoski. In the 2018 5A race at Lane CC, Luke finished 36th and Rowen 24th. This year, they will be looking to place higher and will be comparing themselves with Wilsonville twin sophomores Ben and Jacob McClellands.

And the Suchoskis will use as reference their ranking among state sophomores. Going into Saturday, Luke is No. 7 and Rowen No. 9 on that list in fastest time this season. Ben and Jacob McClelland rank eighth and 10th among 5A sophs in 2019; they were 73rd and 25th, respectively, at state a year ago.

Scappoose varsity newcomers Gage Ekstrom (junior), Talbot Friesen (freshman) and Andrew Morton (junior) "will want to stay calm and treat (Saturday) like a normal race," Pinkstaff said. "Run smart without getting caught up in the excitement and competition, and gain experience in hopes of coming back in the future."

Friesen ranks 18th among 5A freshmen, so he can use that as a reference. Ekstrom will be looking to bounce back from a conference run that was a bit off his recent form. Morton — promoted to varsity to replace injured junior Griffin Barron — has "a great opportunity and is such a great kid, hard worker and has been such a strong leader for our JV guys," Pinkstaff said.

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