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RUN LIKE THE WIND: Melisa Abesa, a transfer from California, leads Katrina Orton in a sprint during Wednesday's La Grande High School track and field practice. The Tiger boys and girls teams open the season Friday at the Hermiston Time Trials. (The Observer/JOE SOVA).
RUN LIKE THE WIND: Melisa Abesa, a transfer from California, leads Katrina Orton in a sprint during Wednesday's La Grande High School track and field practice. The Tiger boys and girls teams open the season Friday at the Hermiston Time Trials. (The Observer/JOE SOVA).

Joe Sova

Sports Editor

It will be no surprise if the La Grande High School boys track and field team repeats as Greater Oregon League champion and the Tigers go on to take the district title.

With a bevy of quality athletes returning from last year's squad, La Grande opens the 2005 season Friday at the Hermiston Time Trials. Events begin at 2 p.m.

According to La Grande head coach Duane Smiley, Burns and Baker should battle for the top spot in GOL girls since LHS lost six high-scoring seniors from last season. But the Tigers could be right in the mix.

"The boys are going to be real strong again," Smiley said.

LHS senior Rick Anderson is one of the top track athletes in Oregon. He was fifth at state in the Class 3A 400-meter dash last year. Anderson will also score in the triple jump and high jump, and runs on a relay team.

Anderson and junior Kevin Bomberger – who will high jump and run some races – have not practiced yet due to La Grande's success at the state basketball tournament. Another Tiger cager with good spring in his legs, junior Christian Siltanen, will be trying the high jump.

Another Tiger leader will be sophomore Nathan Humphreys. As a freshman, he took high-point honors at the GOL meet last year. His events are the high jump, long jump and 100, and he runs a relay.

Junior Jason Karrells qualified for state in 2004 in the long jump, and is also a triple jumper.

Team captain senior Jeff McClay will score for LHS in the shot put and discus.

LHS assistant coach Joe Brogdon said sophomore Justin Hammill, a transfer from Elgin, shows a lot of promise in the javelin and high jump.

Other potential Tiger scorers: seniors, Joe Hibbert, pole vault and hurdles; Logan Joseph, shot and discus; juniors, Kelley Burgess, sprints; Raage Sofe, sprints and high hurdles; Max Beach, distances; Tom McKinney, javelin and sprints; Michael Godfrey, 800 and shot; Ben Waite, shot and discus; and sophomores, Johnny Bullock, 1,500 and 3,000.

The strength of the La Grande girls will be in the distance events this season.

Leading the way are sophomore Kirsten Johnson and junior Hayley Oveson. Johnson is the defending district champion in the 3,000, and she was second in the 1,500 a year ago. Due to a skiing commitment, though, Johnson won't compete in track until April 1, according to Smiley.

Running for Wallowa High School, Oveson won the 1,500 and 3,000 at the state meet in 1A last year. She was third in 3A state cross country in 2004.

LHS senior captain Jacque Wiseman is a scorer in the 800 and 1,500.

As a freshman, Cora Beach qualified for state last year in the high hurdles and a relay event. She also runs the long hurdle race and the 100.

Smiley said sophomore Melisa Abesa, a transfer from California, "looks really good." She could be LHS's top sprinter.

"We lost a lot in our girls," Smiley said.

"They're going to be hard to replace," Brogdon added.

"We're going to make up a lot of points in the distances," Smiley said.

Other potential scorers are seniors Crystal Kevan (200, 400, relays) and Jennifer Butler (javelin and discus), and sophomore Valerie Butler (pole vault).

"We have a bunch of young girls this year," Brogdon said.

"They have potential," Smiley said.

Smiley coaches the distance runners and high jumpers, while Brogdon handles the throwers and vaulters, and helps with the high jump. Other assistants are Brett Baxter and Julianna Looney, sprints, long jump and triple jump; and Larry Nice, relays.

La Grande has only one varsity home meet this season. That will be May 6 at the refurbished Eastern Oregon University track.


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