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Prep Notebook

Ashland crew team struggles to get on board

Winning isn't way up there on the priority list for Ashland High's girls crew team.

Not yet, at least.

An adventuresome spirit, as much as anything, might rank atop the list for now.

The second-year club program has attracted more than 20 participants -- many whose names haven't appeared on rosters for other sports.

Mostly, we have girls who have come from horseback riding, dance or weren't involved in more traditional sports, says Steve Kiesling, a member of the 1980 Olympic team recruited to coach the squad.

The program began as a senior project for Jennifer Traynor.

The goal a year ago was to take part in the San Diego Crew Classic -- the largest event of its kind on the West Coast -- on Mission Bay.

Predictably, the Ashland eight were overmatched. But it really didn't matter.

As expected, we finished last out of 28, but I think we had a better time than anyone else, Kiesling says. We had been rowing for about a month in the water, compared to everyone else that had probably been rowing for several years.

The squad will no doubt find itself in over its head again this weekend when it takes part in the Head of the Charles races in Boston.

The team flies to New York Wednesday and will work out with the Columbia team on Thursday. On Friday, it's on to New Haven, Conn., and time with Yale's squad.

Kiesling, a 1980 Yale grad, has lined up a pair of Yale boats for his team to use on Saturday and Sunday.

The Head of the Charles is modeled after England's Head of the River race on the Thames.

Everyone races single-file at 10-second intervals, Kiesling says.

Races go from Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening. Ashland will race at 10 a.m. Sunday and is entered in the junior division, made up of high school and collegiate freshmen teams.

The Ashland varsity lineup is Joren Larson, Darci Baize, Lila Little, Shannon Lewis, Liesl Hofer, Stella Copeland, Brielle Hudson, Katie Hamer and coxswain Jazmine Molloy.

Kiesling has shown his girls videotape of the three-mile course he figures will take his team 20 minutes to complete.

It's a very windy course and crews have a habit of running into bridges, which we can't do because we're borrowing a boat, Kiesling says.

No matter what happens over the weekend, the start-up program is making headway.

The best way to find where you are is by going against the best, Kiesling says. The girls are working really hard and they're learning about being competitive.

Kiesling is a 40-year-old magazine editor, who moved to Ashland eight years ago.

His Olympic dream vanished when Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. Then in 1998 at the Nike World Masters Games, Kiesling rowed on a team that beat a Moscow team crewed by a member of the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic squad.

Shortly thereafter, Traynor approached Kiesling about her senior project.

I wasn't smart enough to tell her she was crazy, Kiesling says.

Money was raised for two shells and Jackson County has set aside a place for the team's boathouse on Emigrant Lake. The squad practices two afternoons and two mornings a week.

Martin Thomas, whose daughter Devon was a member of last year's team and now rows for Willamette University, and former collegiate rower Janel Crawford are working with Kiesling.

The limitation we have now is not the desire of the girls -- several of them went to a rowing camp up in Eugene last summer -- but the amount of time we have, Kiesling says.

He notes Emigrant is an attractive site for rowing, because there is relatively little wind.

It's right in the middle between Portland San Francisco and Seattle and San Diego, he says. Washington and Cal have the fastest crews in the country and we could have major races here.

THE BEATEN PATH -- Crater's girls have their best shot at returning to the Class 4A state cross county meet since 1992.

Two teams advance to the Nov. 6 state meet in Eugene and the Comets have beaten everyone in the Southern Oregon Conference, except Ashland.

Second-year coach Lynn Carrigan teaches at Scenic Middle School, where she has coached cross country and track since 1989. She points to two factors in the Comets' rise: attitude and support.

I think it began to be a sport where (athletes) kept in shape for other sports and wasn't taken seriously, Carrigan says. Now the kids are very competitive.

Luckily, several of our runners come from families that run.

Thus, it wasn't unusual to see a bunch of teenagers from the Central Point School District competing in road runs and the Bear Creek Park cross country series this past summer.

The summer work has paid off.

Sophomore Jody Polyniak has lowered her 5,000-meter course best to 20 minutes, 18 seconds this fall. Her best last season was 21:43. Freshman Samantha Kezer has dropped nearly two minutes off her best to 20:33.

Senior Janelle Goeres, 22nd in last year's SOC district meet, has been among the front-runners all season.

Her times were decent last year, Carrigan says, but she's a very dedicated worker and it's shown.

FATEFUL OMEN -- The night couldn't have been more festive.

South Medford's football team was leading Klamath Union 17-0 at the halftime of homecoming. The queen had just been crowned and the band was on the field.

Then in one fell swoop it came undone for the Panthers.

A bird residing in the rafters of Spiegelberg Stadium took to the air and apparently died in midflight, tumbling to the turf in front of Sousaphone player.

It was an ill omen. From that point on, the night belonged to the Pelicans, who came back to defeat the Panthers, 18-17.