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Tornado girls primed for run at SOC district title

Mark Hodges knows what can happen to the best-laid plans in track and field.

At the snap of a finger, one injury, one dropped baton or one false start can end the dreams of a district championship.

The North Medford High coach has won one girls and one boys district title since taking the Black Tornado job in 2000, and might have a couple others had injuries not crippled his runners, jumpers and throwers.

But Hodges understands that's the nature of track and field. It's as unpredictable as the weather. You expect the unexpected.

— And so Hodges is trying to temper his enthusiasm when talking about his current girls team.

It's not easy, though.

Not when he has a sprinter like Brittany Hodges, his junior daughter, who has blazed to school-record times of 25.52 in the 200 meters and 56.33 in the 400.

Not when he has a hurdler and jumper like Rosanna Medina, who has run the 300 hurdles in 45.18 and long jumped 17-4&

188; . The latter mark is also a school record.

And not when he has a distance runner like Danielle Jordan, a transfer from Baker City who finished second at the Class 3A state meet in the 3,000 and third in the 1,500 last spring.

Those three represent North Medford's finest, but they've got highly competent company around them, making the Tornado girls the team to beat in the SOC in 2003.

North Medford's loaded ' they're the favorites (to win district), Roseburg coach Mike Bober says. I'm not sure they've got a weakness.

The Tornado's greatest strengths, as usual, are in the sprints and hurdles.

Seniors Emily Dunn and Jamie Meager and junior transfers Brittany Lawson and Kelley Birdsye join Brittany Hodges to form one of the better sprint crews in the state.

Hodges, who has battled ankle and heel injuries the past two years but still managed fourth-place finishes in the 200 and 400 at last year's Class 4A state meet, finally looks 100 percent healthy.

It's encouraging, Mark Hodges says. She's getting in some good early-season workouts.

Medina, meanwhile, returns as one of the top 300-meter hurdlers in the state ' she's already earned a scholarship to the University of Nevada ' and has added the 100-meter hurdles to her workload. Sophomores Heather Hodnett and Shayli Minor also return as district placers in the shorter hurdles race.

Lawson's best event is probably the 400 ' her personal record of 1:00.18 trailed only Hodges and Medina among Southern Oregon sprinters last spring ' and she was a member of St. Mary's 4x400 relay team that triumphed at the Class 2A state meet.

That trio, along with junior Jenna Siebenlist, will form one of the fastest 4x400 relay teams in the state. Likewise with Dunn, Hodges, Medina and Meager in the 4x100 relay, although the Tornado has two other quality sprinters in sophomore Lisa Louie and freshman Molly Brophy.

We've never had this kind of depth with our sprinters, coach Hodges says. It's really a luxury.

Hodges also has some of the better distance runners in the SOC in Jordan and sophomores Brianne Hwang and Dacarie Robertson.

In the field, Medina (17-4) and Siebenlist (16-10) form a rock-solid 1-2 punch in the long jump, senior Crystal Worthington has already launched a school-record throw of 37-2&

189; in the shot put this season, junior Rachel Munyon owns the school record in the discus (113-6) and sophomore Amy Christy returns as a district placer in the high jump (5-2).

Barring injury, the Tornado not only has the horses to win district, but also place near the top of the state meet, where it finished sixth a year ago.

Defending district champion South Medford, Roseburg, Klamath Union and possibly Grants Pass will press the Tornado should it falter.

The Panthers return two of the SOC's premier sprinters ' defending district 100- and 200-meter champion Kaylyn Knutson, a sophomore, and junior Amber Stevens ' to go along with senior Teri Silva, the school record holder in the high jump (5-6) and triple jump (36-7).

The Panthers have two other returning district placers in junior Malory Carlton (high jump, long jump) and sophomore Kelley Whitten (400), and they've got a fine pole vaulter in junior Stephanie Anderberg (9-10).

But South lost a pair of senior standouts when sprinter Natasha Wright and Noi Hilgendorf, the school record-holder in the 800 (2:15.94), decided not to turn out.

Roseburg, last season's district runner-up, lost the majority of its points to graduation but can boast of three quality pole vaulters in junior Katie Stephens (9-7), senior Mary Wright (9-0) and sophomore Corynn Jorgensen (8-6).

The Indians also have senior Kristen Bitter, who has cleared 5-4 in the high jump and surpassed 35 feet in the triple jump; sophomore Val Groshong, who has gone 116-2 in the javelin; and junior Katie Fuller, who has gone 110-8 in the discus.

Klamath Union will be fueled by junior middle distance ace Katie Leary, who has covered the 1,500 in 4:53.07 and the 3,000 meters in 10:34.34; senior pole vault school-record holder Jenna Fay (10-9); and sophomore sprinter/jumper Claire Edwards.

Grants Pass will showcase sophomore Patina Taylor, who returns with the top mark in the javelin (123-6) and the second-best mark in the triple jump (35-10). The Cavers also have Katelyn VanBrunt and Corey Stewart, who went 3-5, respectively, in the 400 at district last season.

Eagle Point returns defending district pole vault champion Aubrey Harrington (10-6), district runner-up discus thrower Alisa Lee (131-11), and Salina Sychla, a sophomore who launched the javelin a lifetime best of 114-3 to take third in the javelin.

Crater expects to receive big points from senior Erin Kinney, who placed second at district and fifth at state in the high jump (5-3) last season, and from sophomore distance specialist Kendel Nelson, who took second at district in the 3,000 (10:52.12).

As usual, Ashland's strength lies in the middle and long distance events. Senior Kendall Clark is the SOC's top returner in the 800 (2:23.3) and her younger sister, freshman Hannah, could be a factor in the 1,500 and 3,000 if she can overcome mononucleosis. Senior Theresa McCaffrey, who was sixth in the 3,000 (11:32.37) at district last season, senior sprinter Ashley Black and junior hurdler/high jumper Erika Boenhke will also contribute.

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