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Big numbers turn out for Pacer cross-country teams

Lakeridge hopes to qualify both teams for state this year


VERN UYETAKE - Noah Belcik was a state qualifer in the 800 last spring and a top runner for the Pacers this year.An enormous freshman class has led to record numbers for the Lakeridge cross-country program. Just shy of 100 prospective runners are out for the team this year which coach Scott Spear says makes for a fun environment.

“There's a lot of laughing and a lot of encouragement,” Spear said.

There's also a good amount of talent returning for the Pacers this year. The Lakeridge boys are hoping to get back to the state meet this fall.

Four varsity runners return, including four of its top six finishers from the district meet last year.

Noah Belcik is back following a strong track season in which he qualified for state in the 800. He finished sixth at districts last year and could be primed to improve upon that this season.

Daniel Ragsdale also returns for the Pacers as one of their anchors, along with Justin Miller, who also had an impressive track season.

Bringing more experience and speed to Lakeridge will be Alex Harbert, another returning varsity runner.

Last fall, Lakeridge used its team mentality to finish second in the TRL, earning a trip to state.

“It was kind of by committee last season, everyone had a chance in every race,” Spear said.

That figures to be the case again this year as Lakeridge will rely on its depth and strength as a unit in dual meets and at districts.

“Pretty much every team has one or two really strong guys so we'll need to make sure we're placing seven guys in front of their fifth guy,” Spear said.

The team has been pushing each other in early practices and Spear is hoping that some of his younger runners will make the leap as the season progresses.

For the girls, the competition is fierce for the team's varsity slots.

“It's kind of crazy right now. I think we have about 15 kids battling for seven spots,” Spear said.

The girls squad is loaded with athleticism as standouts from other sports have opted to run this season.

“The junior high has also done a good job getting kids interested in cross-country,” Spear said.

Elli Newman is the Pacers' top returner, having finished 15th at the district meet last year. Twins Sophie and Lillie French are also back for Lakeridge.

Early in the season, Lakeridge's varsity line-up could vary dramatically from race to race as there appears to be little separation between some of its top runners.

In the league, West Linn appears to be a frontrunner for the boys while St. Mary's should be dominant in the girls competition. However, the other berths at state could be wide open this year and the Pacers hope they will be well-represented in Eugene this fall.

Lakeridge's first dual meet will be Sept. 9 at Tigard against the Tigard and Newberg.

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