Travis Neuman & Eric Aldritt by Dave Clark
Last fall South Eugene emphatically inserted its name on the 6A boys’ level and led by Brian Eimstad and Jack Wilson, the Axemen won the State title. That duo has moved to the collegiate level along with others from that stellar group, so it will be a challenge for them to regroup. Normally with the guys it is prudent to shy away from picking a young team like the Central Catholic Rams but Coach Dave Frank had a freshman dominated team last fall and still placed second with 77 points. Leading the way will be Kyle Thompson, who added his name to the select list of CC individual champions as a sophomore. You have to go all the way back to 1974 and the great Bill McChesney to find a large-school champion that young and a healthy Thompson has to be the favorite, especially with six of the top eight finishers graduating. Kyle won the Cross-Over Meet at Blue Lake & was the Mt. Hood Champion. The Rams also have the luxury of having all their runners returning including Sam Truax, who placed 14th as a freshman. Jordan Landstrom finished 22nd as a junior and his classmate Andrew Green (26th) will also be on hand along with Sam Lomax (24th as a frosh). Returning also are Dante Dalla Gasperina (42nd) & Jean Baptiste Tooley (54th). There is a wealth of possibilities for the Rams as they will have the services of defending Mount Hood Conference Gunnar Vik plus freshman Daniel Thompson, who hopes to follow in the fleet tracks of his older brother.
The most likely challenger to CC will be perennial power Jesuit, which returns six members of its fourth place squad from last November. Their one loss, however, was their leader David Leavy, who garnered sixth last year but they do return Hunter McGuirk 16th last fall & followed with a banner track campaign. Hunter placed 2nd at the South Salem Saxon Invitational. Alex Joseph (30th) & Sam Remington (35th) can be counted upon as well as Michael Godbout & Joshua Sealand, who earned 49th & 59th respectively. Coach Tom Rothenberger always has his teams in the hunt and this year should be no exception. The Crater Comets took third last fall but they lost their stalwarts Neil Seibert (4th) & Jon Obeso (7th), who will be difficult to replace. They will have the services of Daniel Stoiber & Jason Braxton plus John Martinez but the team will need others to step up their running.
Individually Beaverton’s Dan Oekerman is the most likely challenger to Thompson. He secured third as a junior and had a solid spring. It is unfortunate that his former running companion Kevin Kavanaugh does not appear likely to return to lend support. Dan won the Saxon Invitational. Julian Heninger of Lakeridge placed ninth last fall and then won a Three Rivers league title in the spring, so he can be expected to be in the mix as well as Reilly Bloomer of South Eugene, who copped a twelfth place finish as a freshman. Previously mentioned Sam Truax & Hunter McGuirk should be near the front as well as Jackson Haselnus of Barlow, who placed 15th last fall. Another to watch is Taylor Hybl of Centennial, who was hampered by health issues last fall. Last but hardly least is Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski of Forest Grove, who garnered 17th at State & then upped the ante for a very impressive track season.
Jose Macias by Angela Collins
The 5A saw a great struggle between Hermiston, the defending champion, and Summit with the issue essentially being settled at the fifth man position. This year there also should be a spirited battle but the Storm has the upper hand on paper with defending champion Travis Neuman leading the way along with Eric Aldritt, who had a break-out track campaign after placing sixth last fall. Neuman won invitational meets at Albany, Bend (Oxford) & Adidas Concordia, whle Aldritt placed 2nd at Saxon & Bend. Summit also returns Matthew Maton, who scored 12th place finish as a freshman and backed it with a strong track season. Summit must replace Sammy Naffziger (13th) but has sixteenth place Luke Hinz plus James Bowlin. Hermiston has a great trio up front with Eduardo Juarez (4th), Jose Macias (9th) & Alejandro Cisneros (10th) all returning. On any given day each is capable of winning but the team lost both Javier Velasco (11th) & Kain Garcia (25th) but they do have Nathan Sanders, who will need to cut his time. Other runners to watch are Chris Hinkle of Cleveland (14th) plus Ty James & Sam Collins of Wilsonville.
Siuslaw dominated at 4A last year and with their top six returning this year, it is hard to imagine a challenger, especially with north Valley’s loss due to graduation. Making a challenge even more difficult is the fact that with Paul Adams of Mazama graduating Siuslaw has the top two individual runners in Matt Campbell & Mitchell Butler, who secured second & third last November respectively. Butler topped the field at Molalla as well as the Northwest Classic, while Campbell was the Far West Champion. Backing the pair are Hayden Schoffner (10th) & Mark Madras (12th). Expect improvement from Seth Campbell, who ran 17:06 as a freshman & contributed a 19th place effort. Brian Schofield was not far behind in 22nd place and Siuslaw can make a statement not just in Oregon but I the nation. Another harrier to watch closely is Brett Willyard of Seaside, who placed thirteenth at State last fall. His track campaign last spring put him on the national radar &, if he can translate his ability & improvement over the 5K distance, he could make things very interesting. If Brett is in the race runners better not wait until a final spurt to the finish. Willyard placed third last fall in the B race at Concordia.
Nick Obletz of Oregon Episcopal School was one runner, who was one 3A capable of beating his big school rivals and being a fourth place finisher in the division last fall, is the top returnee. Obletz scored at the Tualatin Invitational as well as his school's invite. Dave Ribich, who finished seventh as a freshman from Enterprise, is a likely challenger. East Linn’s Kody Osborne (10th), Nick Martin of Southwest Christian (11th), Cooper Roach of Valley Catholic and Chris Merlos of New Hope Christian are all likely suspects. Merlos was but a freshman last fall, so he is definitely one to watch. All teams took severe hits due to graduation, so it is anyone’s guess, who will step to the front of the pack.