Young Trojans ready to run well at state

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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With three seniors and 11 underclassmen, Oak Ridge High’s varsity cross country teams competing at Saturday’s state championships are a young bunch. Senior girls Maxine Goyette and Holli Arrieta have run in several big races in their four years, but the team also features junior Taylor Ashby, sophomore Rachel Peterson and freshmen Ellie Velez, Sabrina Andrus and Maddie DeZordo. The boys have one senior in Sean McHone, five juniors in Jake Zeltner, Zach Thornton, Dusty Armstrong, Evan Baxter and Marcos Conde and sophomore Ryan Prestegard. Because of their youth, expectations at Saturday’s meet at Woodward Park in Fresno are tempered. “We want all the kids to shoot for personal-best times and see where that puts us,” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley said. “If we reach our goals, I think if we slide into the top-10 that would be a realistic goal for us and we’ll have to run well to do that. The level of competition at the state meet has improved tremendously the last four or five years. Last year was the fastest state meet in history.” As an example of how fast the boys were last year, 25 boys finished the Division I race in 15 minutes, 30 seconds or faster. Fairley said no boy on his team has run that fast. What the Trojans have going for them is that they’re coming off a strong performance at the section meet, where they upset Davis to win the title, and also, the Trojans, from one to five, run in a tight pack and that benefits them in every race. In the section race the top-five runners finished with 29 seconds. “Our goal is to improve on the best finish our boys have ever had at the state meet and I believe that’s sixth,” Armstrong said. “Our strategy is to run in a tight group.” Armstrong said he’s pleasantly surprised at how well the team has run this season. “It came as a surprise to win sections,” Armstrong said. “It was an upset to beat Davis and it was great.” The girls have a little more experience on their side. “Maxine has been to four state meets and she and Holli have a lot of big-meet experience,” Fairley said. “We’ve got a few seniors to go along with are young girls. This will be the biggest meet they will ever see.” Velez is happy to be a member of the varsity squad and enjoys the diversity of the group. "It's fun to be around the younger girls, to have someone going through the same thing that you're going through," Velez said. "It's also nice to have the seniors, who have all the experience, to guide us." Fairley said his biggest job on Friday (when the team arrives in Fresno) and Saturday is to be a calming influence. “Our jobs (the coaches) are to keep everyone calm because it’s a high-energy race the minute you get there,” Fairley said. “You get and teams are running out on the course; there are vendors and people everywhere and it’s just intense. I walk them to the finish line and tell them, ‘here’s the finish line. It’s going to feel very good when you cross this line if you run well.’” Like Armstrong's expectations for the boys, Velez has high hopes for the girls. "We want to get off to a fast start, work together and help each other out," Velez said. "We're hoping to be a top-five team." Personally, Velez is hoping to run in the low 18s. Her ultimate individual goal is a top-10 finish, but she realizes that might be a bit far-fetched.