Oak Ridge girls motivated for good run at state meet

By: Matt Long
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The Oak Ridge girls didn’t win a section title on Nov. 13 and that could be the best thing that happened to them. Oak Ridge finished behind Granite Bay and that has given them extra motivation to run their best at Saturday’s CIF state championship. “The Granite Bay girls had already made section champion posters before the meet and that has given the girls a lot of incentive,” Fairley said. “Granite Bay is ranked sixth in the state and we are ranked eighth so one of their goals it to finish in front of Granite Bay at the state meet.” A top-three finish is the team’s highest goal, but beating Granite Bay and a top-five finish would also be a good reward for a lot of hard work put into the season. The Lady Trojans placed ninth in the state last year and return four of the five scoring runners from last year’s meet: seniors Samantha Ralstin, Brittney Putman and Jackie Mansoor and junior Maxine Goyette. Junior Holli Arrieta, the team’s No. 6 runner a year ago, also returns to the team, while freshman Reaghan Emrick replaces graduated senior Hayley Scott. Senior Kaileen Palmero will also run in the meet. The team lost a great runner and leader in Scott, but Emrick has had a marvelous freshman year and is running times close to what Scott ran. Fairley said the team’s experience at the state meet, plus a change in training focus, has helped the girls be better prepared for the state meet. “I really see the girls’ confidence,” Fairley said. “They feel fortunate to have qualified after a close section meet and I see the team going into the meet with much more enthusiasm. Overall, their times are better than last year.” With five runners returning to the state meet this year, the pressure of the race shouldn’t be much of a problem. Putman will be competing in her fourth state meet, while Ralstin and Mansoor and Goyette will be running their third and Arrieta will be in her second. Based on their individual improvement and experience, all should be able to run faster times than last season. “I think we can improve on last year’s ninth-place finish,” Ralstin said. “The teams from the South aren’t as fast as last year and we’re running well.” Putman added the team aspect is a motivating factor. “The first time I went to the state meet it was just with one other teammate and it was intimidating,” Putman said. “The last two years and this year it’s been with the whole team and it’s a lot different. It’s more fun and pretty cool with the whole team. We’re hoping for a podium (top-three) finish and if not that, a top-five finish.” Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have raced less and practiced more this season, cutting back on meets to be fresher for the end of the season. Fairley feels this has helped and the teams are more prepared than ever to have a great performance on Saturday.“We’ve backed off racing this season and at times that Saturday morning run at Lake Natoma hasn’t been the most favorite thing to do, but I kept telling the kids that it’s going to pay off in the long run. Sam’s been a great leader for the girls and a strong influence on the team. The girls are confident and relaxed.”