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Lady Trojans finish seventh at state meet

By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ cross country team rebounded from a disappointing performance at the section championships with a superb effort at the state meet on Saturday. The Lady Trojans made school history by placing seventh, the highest place of any girls’ team at Oak Ridge and just one place behind the boys’ sixth-place finish in 2006. Had the race not been as fast as it was, the team could have placed higher. In fact, their team time of 1 hour, 35 minutes and 31 seconds would have won the Division II state meet in 2004 and 2005, but this year was only good enough for seventh. “I was very pleased with our performance,” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley said. “The seventh-place finish by our girls was the best in school history and they would have placed higher in any other year, but this year’s race was extremely fast. “Three of our girls had huge personal bests and Amjed Aboukhadijeh also ran well with a 12-second personal-best time.” Perhaps the most promising aspect of the team’s performance is that all eight competitors will be back to run again next year, as they’re all underclassmen. Junior Hayley Scott did not post her best time, but was the girls’ top finisher, as she placed 31st in 18 minutes, 40 seconds. “I didn’t run the time I wanted, but I was happy with my effort and the way I ran,” Scott said. “We did well as a team too, much better than at sections.” While Scott didn’t run her best time, considering it was such a fast race she was happy. “I ran hard and my time was 30 seconds faster than at last year’s state meet, so I was happy,” Scott said. “My first mile was a 5:35, which might have been a little too fast because I couldn’t catch my breath during the second mile.” Freshman Maxine Goyette placed 53rd in 19:03, followed by a great time by sophomore Brittney Putman, who placed 58th in 19:05. Fellow sophomore Samantha Ralstin placed 61st in 19:10, followed by another strong run by sophomore Jackie Mansoor, who ran a 19:33 to place 81st. Freshman LeeAnn Hold finished in 19:39 in 87th place, while junior Robin Yancey finished 93rd in 19:41. “Brittney, Jackie and Robin ran huge personal-best times and three others were close to it,” Fairley said. “LeeAnn struggled a bit, but she gained a lot of experience. She looked really antsy that first mile and never looked settled.” Aboukhadijeh placed 27th in the Division II boys’ race, running a 15:46, which was a school-record time for the junior. “It was definitely a good race for me,” Aboukhadijeh said. “I broke 15:50 and that was one of my goals. My time would have placed fourth at last year’s state meet, but this year it was 27th. It was a very competitive race.” Aboukhadijeh, like Scott, ran a super fast first mile and then struggled to hang on during the second mile. “My goal was to run a 4:50 first mile, which is already out of my comfort zone, and I came in at 4:47, which is even faster. I was running with the front group, and I just tried to hang on the best that I could during the second mile, which is the hilly part of the course.” While Aboukhadijeh lost some places during the middle of the race, he finished strong, passing several runners over the last mile. “I came up to the last mile and said to myself ‘this is it,’” Aboukhadijeh said. “I gave it everything I had and passed eight people in the last 800 meters.” Scott, Ralstin, Goyette, Hold, Abby Walker, Aboukhadijeh, Jeroen Keukenkamp and Zach Speno will race in the Foot Locker West Regional on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles. Many of the top athletes from 13 western states will compete in the race.