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South girls look to the future

EUGENE - The South Medford High girls track team isn't expected to score a lot of points at the Class 4A state meet that kicks off at Hayward Field today, but coach Bill Rowan believes the big-meet experience will pay dividends for next season.

Five of the six Panther girls who qualified for the state meet - sophomores Natasha Wright, Noi Hilgendorf and Teri Silva and juniors Whitney Grant and Hope Berkey - return next year.

Add standout hurdler Heather Frigaard, who sat out this season with a broken leg, and the Panthers have the makings of one of the better teams in the state for 2002.

"Our motto at district was to set the table for next year," says Rowan, whose team finished third at the SOC meet and was just five points in back of North Medford. "There's some excitement building already."

The Panthers best hope at state this weekend is Silva, who has twice broken the school record in the high jump and thrice eclipsed the school record in the triple jump with bests of 5-6 and 36-11/2.

Silva is a clear contender in the high jump, where only North Eugene's Julie Elliott (5-7) has gone higher.

"Teri got in the weight room this year and that's the biggest reason she's made such major improvements," Rowan says. "It's been fun to watch her progress. There's no telling what her limits are."

Silva could find the going more difficult in the triple jump, where five competitors own superior marks. Then again, the super soph has reached personal records three times in the past month.

Grant, meanwhile, will compete in today's long jump and should emerge as a state placer (top eight) if she can match the school record mark of 17-4 she hit at district.

Hilgendorf and Wright are also good bets to score. Hilgendorf has posted the third-fastest time in the 800 (2:17.7), while Wright owns the sixth-fastest clocking in the 400 (57.56).

Berkey, who has a best of 38-91/2 in the shot put, is also ranked among the top eight.

South Medford's other entrant is senior Heather Fossen, who launched a lifetime best of 122-1 on her final throw at district in the javelin.

North Medford's hopes at state hinge heavily on the health of sprinter Brittany Hodges. The freshman standout broke the district record in the 400 last Saturday (56.33) but strained her Achilles tendon warming up for the race.

Hodges also anchors a Black Tornado 4x100 relay team that shattered the district record (48.46) and registered the state's fastest time, runs a leg on North Medford's 4x400 relay and is entered in the 200.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," says Mark Hodges, North's head coach and Brittany's father. "She went through some light workouts earlier this week and looked OK."

North Medford's other state entrants are Jennifer Abbott (100, 200, both relays), Sarah Rountree (100 hurdles) Emily Dunn (short relay), Rosanna Medina (short relay) and Denali Tice (long relay).

If Brittany Hodges is at her best and the Tornado has a good day, it has a shot to come home with a trophy (top four).

Ashland's Paris Edwards will be a solid favorite in today's 3,000. Although Edwards has never won a state championship on the track - she won the state cross country title in 1999 - her best time of 10:10.16 is 22 seconds faster than the next-best runner.

Carissa Nafie of Crater has the state's third-best mark in the discus, having thrown 127-0.

Girls finals today will be in the shot put, javelin, long jump and 3,000.

Boys finals will be in the long jump, discus, pole vault, high jump and 3,000.

The meet picks up at 11 a.m. Saturday with the first running event - the 4x100 relay - set for — p.m.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail