SHERWOOD — The Sherwood High School cross country teams certainly seemed to step up a year ago, with the boys winning the Pacific Conference title and placing sixth at the Class 6A state championships, while the Lady Bowmen placed second in the conference to earn a state team berth of their own.
This year, with some key returnees, promising newcomers and a lot of hard work, things just may be even better for the Bowmen squads.
"Our boys had a truly special 2018 season and they hope to maintain, or even build upon, it this year," Sherwood coach Dave Kilian said. "We graduated Henry Giles, however we are returning our 2-13 runners, and there will be some tough battles each week to be in our top seven."
The Bowmen return six runners that competed in last year's Pacific Conference district meet varsity race, with all six of those competitors placing in the top 11.
Sherwood senior Jaron Homer was fourth in the individual standings at last year's district event with a time of 16 minutes, 4.9 seconds for the 5,000-meter course at Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville. Bowmen senior Thomas Osborn was right behind him in fifth place, at 16:25.7. Sophomore Ethan Sturdivant was sixth, Junior Ismael Alvarez was seventh, sophomore Jeffery Rogers was seventh and sophomore James Crabtree was 11th.
"Each of our returning runners bring a lovely balance of leadership skills," Kilian said. "Whether it's Thomas' incredible competitiveness, Jaron's camaraderie with everyone, Ismael's quiet and incredible work ethic, the friendly push and challenge brought on by our deep sophomore group, or the joy and spirit of some of captains from the JV squad, we have a special group."
Among the newcomers to the Sherwood boys varsity are sophomore Liam Cloward, senior Spencer Baggaley, senior George Westover, senior Larson Johnson and senior Nate Hicken.
Our goal is to repeat as Pacific Conference champions and improve upon our sixth-place state finish," Kilian said of the Sherwood boys. "But, with teams like Forest Grove, with the incredible skill of Quincy Norman, or Newberg and McMinnville who have a pretty tight racing pack, we need to always be pushing as they are close behind us. And, in both the boys and girls squads, we have wonderful coaches in this league. They are competitive men and women, but also super encouraging and the kind of individuals that you want to spend time around off the course. This is what makes our league special."
The Sherwood girls are also taking high hopes into the 2019 campaign.
"Our girls squad has a wonderful outlook this season," Kilian said. "Though we graduated our No. 4 through No. 7 racers from last years second-place Pacific Conference finish, our top three return, and we have some wonderful young ladies ready to step right in and push for a return visit to Lane Community College (site of the Class 6A state meet)."
Senior Madi Ramos, junior Kari Eddington and junior Brooke Smith return from last year's Lady Bowmen varsity squad. Ramos ran to sixth place at last year's Pacific Conference district meet. Eddington finished in 14th, and Smith was 16th.
Among the newcomers to the Sherwood varsity are junior McKenzie Abiley, senior Vanessa Van Winkle, junior Maia Oliver and sophomore Ava Grunow, who was last year's Pacific Conference junior varsity district champ.
"Our ladies group has wonderful team leadership," Kilian said. "They swarm to welcome in any new athlete on the team and they truly embrace the feeling of family. Many of them have worked hard this off season and it will show in their early-season races as they set themselves up for some great racing. One fun note, Brooke Smith, on her own volition, organized a youth running camp this summer, rallied many of our veteran runners to help out as 'coaches' and we welcomed 45 elementary and middle school future runners into our program. This is a small picture of the heart this team brings to cross country."
As for the Pacific Conference this year, the Lady Bowmen are ready to go against some tough competition.
"Our league has some very tough teams at the top — and last year's Pacific League Champion, McMinnville, certainly isn't looking like they will easily give up their spot. Their ladies were a true pack and it makes them a force in dual and championship races. We are coming off a second-place finish in the league and we certainly hope to hold that spot and make a push to rise above that, while holding off some tough competition right on our heels."
The Sherwood teams will open their season Friday at the 2019 Night Meet, which will be held at Wilsonville High School.
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