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Traeger, Rodriguez set new personal records to lead Kennedy at cross country championships

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Sophomore Kylee Rodriguez set a new personal record by nearly a minute on Saturday, placing 30th in 21:25.50 to help the Trojan girls finish 7th overall at the 2019 state championships.According to head coach Steve Ritchie, Kennedy sophomore Kylee Rodriguez envisioned herself as a sprinter entering her first season of cross country this fall.

However, after setting personal records in every race this season, including a one-minute improvement at the 2019 3A/2A/1A State Championships on Saturday, Ritchie thinks he may have converted her into a distance runner.

Rodriguez was one of five Trojan runners to set either a personal or season-best time at the state race hosted at Lane Community College, helping the Kennedy girls place seventh overall at this year's championship.

"For her to do what she's done is pretty remarkable," Ritchie said of Rodriguez. "I think she's just scratching the surface of what she can do."

The first-year distance runner finished 30th overall at the state meet with a time of 21:25.50. It was a 59-second improvement over her previous best set a week and a half earlier at the district meet this season. Since stepping on the racecourse on Sept. 21, Rodriguez's times have improved in all seven of her meets this year — and Saturday's PR was her most significant improvement of the season.

"Running a minute PR at state — that's not normal," Ritchie said. "That's what I told her after the race; normal people don't do this. "

Rodriguez finished just behind junior teammate Cassie Traeger, who set a PR of her own to lead the Trojans with a 25th-place finish at 21:10.00 on her third trip to the state meet.

"Cassie was awesome," Ritchie said. "We've kind of held her back in practice because she's had some chronic tightness in her leg. This year was just really good for her. She did an awesome job of leading the team."

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy junior Cassie Traeger led the Trojans at the 2019 3A/2A/1A Cross Country State Championships, finishing 25th with a personal-best time of 21:10.00.The Trojans entered Saturday's race with something of a chip on their shoulder after seeing their streak of four consecutive district titles come to an end this season. Kennedy placed second to Central Linn by five points in the league race in Lebanon on Halloween, but the Trojans beat out the Cobras by nine points at the state meet.

"The district meet...was a little bit disappointing for us to lose by five points and lose the streak of four in a row," Ritchie said. "The girls took that really hard, and they just came back really strong."

Following Traeger and Rodriguez was second-year runner Aleksandra Eyles, who fought through nagging leg problems this season to post a season-best time by more than 30 seconds at state, finishing 40th in 22:01.10.

The Trojans' three seniors Whitney Lopez (53rd, 23:19.60), Mikayla Schaecher (62nd, 24:14.20) and Gisell Juarez (70th, 25:16.50) followed. Juarez set a PR by 33 seconds, while Lopez and Schaecher came close to their previous bests.

Freshman Haley Kline rounded out Kennedy's runners, setting a PR of 25:21.00 to finish 72nd.

"I'm really proud of all the girls," Ritchie said. "Our top three are coming back, and we're hoping to reload and come back even stronger. I think this was kind of a breakthorugh year for some of our girls."

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