By Bill Wilson

Sep 23, 2008


Brandon Kohler ran second in last year's PIL 5A district meet. He and other returnees have Cleveland's boys gunning to top their ninth-place showing at state.

SARAH TOOR / THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE

Olivia Poblacion has grown in her four years of guiding Cleveland cross country - and so have her teams.

As a runner for Cleveland, she wasn’t far removed from a top-20 finish (as Olivia Bender) in the 2003 state championships.

In 2005, she took over a CHS program that had 40-some runners.

This season, Cleveland has a roster of about 70, boys and girls.

“Our team is humongous,” Poblacion says. “That’s pretty exciting.”

As has been the team’s success.

The Warrior boys and girls are on track for their third straight trip to the Class 5A state meet in what Poblacion says will be her last year as coach. She plans to attend a four-year college next fall to pursue a degree in environmental science and return to competitive running.

Of the Warriors and their chances for postseason success, she says: “The boys should be pretty competitive. They’re definitely the strongest I’ve coached so far. If the girls can get healthy, they’ll be fine by the end of the season.”

 

BOYS SPORT THREE KEY RETURNEES, PLUS REHABBED HENRY

The boys team graduated just one runner from its 2007 PIL 5A champions. Back are three of the league’s top six finishers: runner-up Brandon Kohler, a senior; Daniel Winn, who third last year as a sophomore; and senior Isaac Miller, who placed seventh.

The three have run some similar times this season, with Winn clocking 15 minutes, 53.75 seconds to win a six-team meet Sept. 17 at Barlow (Kohler was third overall and Miller seventh).

‘That’s exciting to see, because (Brandon) hasn’t had someone with him before,” Poblacion says. “He’s been our top runner almost his whole high school career.”

And all three have more company now that sophomore Marcus Henry is back in the fold after being undecided whether he would run. Out for several weeks with mononucleosis, Henry recently returned to practice and has run in two meets, finishing eighth at Barlow in a race that included runners from Franklin, Barlow, Hood River Valley and Roosevelt.

Henry did not run at state in 2007 because of injuries, but he was the 3-kilometer national champion for his age group last year.

It will take him a bit longer to get up to top cross-country speed, but Poblacion is delighted to add him to an already strong squad.

“As he trains more and more, his times will go down quickly,” she says. “He gives us more of an edge to close the gap between our fourth and fifth kids. That’ll make a big difference in the team scores.”

Other Warrior boys include first-year runner Cody Sharrer, a junior; seniors Lee Rosch and Ryan Sipe; and sophomores Tyler Heilman and David Marre.

Kohler placed sixth in leading Cleveland to fourth as a team at the full PIL/Mount Hood Conference meet on Sept. 10.

In the Sept. 13 New Balance meet at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, the Warriors took fifth out of 14 teams in the sweepstakes division, which was won by three-time defending 6A champ Central Catholic. Kohler (seventh in 16:30.2 seconds), Winn (13th in 16.42.3) and Miller (24th in 17:01.5) each set personal 5-kilometer bests.

“That was a great race to open with,” Poblacion says. “Everyone ran great. I can really see the improvement.”

Poblacion says the Warriors’ main goal is to improve on the team’s ninth-place state finish the past two years.

“That’s definitely within our reach,” she says.

 

WARBERG LEADS, WHILE BATDORFF HEALS

The Cleveland girls have the same goal, after placing 10th at state each of the last two seasons.

So far in 2008, injuries have slowed a team filled with juniors and sophomores.

Junior Kara Batdorff, the defending PIL 5A champion, is rehabbing from knee tendonitis. Batdorff, who qualified for state in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters in track, should be able to race soon, Poblacion says. “She’s making a lot of progress.”

Sophomore Katie Warberg, who was second at district last year, has taken the Warriors’ lead in Batdorff’s absence and is “going to be awesome,” Poblacion says.

Sophomore Emma Franz, junior Lauren Armony, senior Kate Rochat and sophomore Sarah Scrivens are among Cleveland’s other top runners.

Poblacion, 21, expects to graduate from Portland Community College next summer. She would have three years of college eligibility and wants to compete at a high level - ideally at Oregon State - using what she’s learned the last four years as a coach.

“I look at the race entirely different now,” says Poblacion, who became the Warriors’ coach when this year’s seniors were freshmen. “Coaching has been an awesome experience for me. It’s been a big challenge, but I’ve learned a lot.”