MHC GIRLS TRACK PREVIEW – St. Mary's will try to end Gophers' six-year run at the top

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Gresham senior Kyra Speer returns to the field events after winning the district title in the long jump in 2007.

David Ball / The Outlook

The Mount Hood Conference has crowned Gresham as its champion each of the last six years, but the Gophers may get more of a challenge in 2008 with a group of young stars leading Barlow and a talented group at St. Mary’s expected to make a run.

The Blues are loaded in the distance races after dominated the Mount Hood cross country season. St. Mary’s placed four runners in the top-10, which will give the team plenty of combinations to use to pile up points during the spring season.

But the Blues can also score in other areas with Ellie Daniels in the jumps and Meeghan Bergmann in the sprints capable of winning district titles.

The long-time champion Gophers pack plenty of talent themselves returning state qualifiers in five events.

Following are previews of the five local teams:

• Gresham appears to be the class of the league once again this spring, but will have to overcome a lack of depth in some events.

Senior Ali Mosher leads the action on the track after qualifying for state in both hurdle races last spring. She also runs on the relays.

The distance crew should also score plenty of points after taking second in league during the cross country season. Senior KayAnna Cecchi and sophomore Khalia Tidwell lead that group. The Gophers also return senior Schavey Hill in the sprints, although she is battling injuries early this season. Hill was the district 200-and 400-meter champion last year.

The field events are led by senior jumper Kyra Speer, who opened the season only two inches short of her personal best in the long jump. Senior Kelsey Strot adds a scoring threat in the throws after taking third in the district shot put and discus last year.

“If we stay healthy we will be able to cover most events,” Gophers’ coach Chris Koenig said. “This group has seen teams move on to state before, and they know how much work it takes to get there.”

• Barlow is looking for a mix of veteran athletes and a strong freshman class to work together and challenge for a league title this year.

The team is strongest in the throws with seniors McKenzie McNelly and Ali Summerfield joined by sophomore Elke Neuenschwander in the discus and shot put. That trio combined for a 1-2-3 sweep in the discus during the year’s opening meet at Tualatin.

“McKenzie is a strong inside player on our basketball team,” Bruins’ coach Sherry Gustafson said. “She’s an aggressive player with good foot work, and she brings that with her to the track season.”

Senior Gabby Summerfield and sophomore Darragh Martin give the team a solid 1-2 threat in the hurdles, while freshman Dannah Martin won the middle school county meet in the 200 hurdles last spring.

• Centennial will look to its distance crew to provide the biggest splash at this year’s district meet. Leading the charge is senior Michelle Dettmann, who won the state cross country race in the fall.

“We will run her in a variety of events to keep her legs fresh,” Eagles’ coach Diane Crane said. “The fall was such a boost for her, and she’s really in top form.”

Dettmann is joined by her younger sister Andrea, who also qualified for state during her first high school cross country season.

The field events are led by seniors Abby Rodriguez in the jumps and Jessi LaMain in the throws. Rodriguez took sixth in the district long jump last year.

• After winning only one dual meet in 2007, Reynolds looks to work itself up to the middle of the pack this spring. Senior Asia Lawrence and sophomore Chandra Johanningmeier lead the distance crew after reaching the district finals in the 800 last year.

“The distances have been a strength for us in recent years,” Reynolds coach Todd Rispler said. “They’ve built a really good culture with that crew.”

Reynolds is also solid in the sprints with senior Tracie Wong and junior Heather Roth returning after reaching the 400 finals last year.

Jumpers Kim Tune and Lindsey Young lead the charge in the field events. Tune broke the school record in the long jump early this season with a 17-foot-1-inch effort.

• David Douglas will have to rely on its field-event athletes if they are going to stay in the top half of the league standings this season. The Scots graduated almost all of their district scorers on the track with junior distance runner Ariel Clark returning as one of the team’s few threats.

“We lost a lot on the girls side last year, so we’ll be looking to some girls to pick up some of those points,” first-year Scots’ coach Cameron Cross said. “We don’t have many numbers this year, so we’ll be rebuilding.”

Cross comes to David Douglas after spending the last three seasons as an assistant at Clackamas Community College where he was in charge of the sprinters, jumpers and relays.

The field events are highlighted by senior Maddison Stapleton, who won the district pole vault last year. Senior Sami Whitcomb headlines the throwers, while sophomore Rebecca Ramirez returns in the jumps.