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Trojans need strong performance to do well at state meet

By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge’s toughest competition of the season will be Saturday. The top runners and teams from the state will converge on Woodward Park in Fresno for the state cross country championships, where Oak Ridge girls’ and boys’ teams will be attempting to put an exclamation point on their respective seasons by achieving their year-long goals. For the girls, a top-three finish is what they’re shooting for, while the boys would love to finish in the top-10. To achieve those goals, both teams will have to perform their very best. What Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley likes best about the girls is that they are confident. He’s also set a tangible goal for the squad that might be easier for them to focus on rather than thinking about placing in the top-three. “In 2006 Davis High set a course record for the Sac-Joaquin Section at the state meet with their five runners averaging a finishing time of 18 minutes, 56 seconds,” Fairley said. “For our girls to do that, they’re going to have to run better than they did six weeks ago at the Clovis Invitational. I think this gives them something to shoot for, a tangible goal to go after. I think they’re capable of doing it, but they’re going to have to run well.” The team’s top runner, Hayley Scott, is coming off a section championship and is running faster than she’s ever run. Her goal is to finish as close to 18 minutes as possible. Her best time on the course is 18:19, which she ran at the Clovis Invitational. Her teammates, Samantha Ralstin, Jackie Mansoor, Brittney Putman, Maxine Goyette, LeeAnn Hold and Holli Arrieta would all have to finish around 19 minutes for the team to have a chance to beat the record. Fairley believes that if his team can come close to an average finish of 18:56, a top-three finish is a possibility. The boys will have to run considerably better than they did at the section meet to reach the top-10 this week, according to Fairley. But the team is coming off a strong week of practice and there’s much less pressure on them this week. “They’re underdogs so they’re excited to run and see what they can do,” Fairley said. “If they run great then that would be wonderful. There’s more pressure on the girls, but they seem confident going in.” Amjed Aboukhadijeh leads the boys. His goal Saturday is to run in the 15:20s, which would be a 25-second improvement on his time on the course last year. “If Amjed can break 15:30 that would be a really good race for him and typically that would put him in the top-20,” Fairley said. “Nathan is right there with him. If the boys can step up and if they all have a good day, they could do it, but they’ll have to run better than they did at sections and everyone will have to have a good day.”