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North girls have lofty goals

Hodges, Jordan key Black Tornado's push for a trophy at Class 4A state meet

Mark Hodges would like to think that his North Medford High girls track team could contend for the Class 4A state championship this weekend at Eugene's Hayward Field.

The Black Tornado will send 12 athletes in 11 events to the grand stage of Oregon high school track and field, and Hodges believes his team could score as many as 50 points.

A point total of that magnitude often earns first-place hardware, but Benson Tech of Portland, which has built a dynasty in recent years, figures to score 75 to 90 points and claim its sixth straight title.

In the boys meet, Beaverton gets the nod.

— The affair ' which also includes the Class 3A boys and girls championships ' begins at 10:30 a.m. today and picks up at 10 a.m. Saturday at the University of Oregon venue.

Since girls began competing at the state meet in 1966, the highest a Medford team has finished is third place. Medford High accomplished the feat in 1978 and North Medford duplicated it last year.

Hodges hopes his team can ratchet up its performance a notch this weekend. Should Benson stumble, the Tornado could find itself in the title hunt.

We'd have to be hitting on all cylinders, and they (Benson) would need a dropped baton, a false start and that sort of thing, Hodges says. They're a solid favorite, but we've got the firepower to score 40 to 50 points.

Other girls teams expected to fight for a trophy (top four) include Gresham, Pendleton, Forest Grove, Crescent Valley, Jefferson, Sunset, Central Catholic and South Eugene.

A strong performance by North Medford hinges, to a large degree, on senior sprinter Brittany Hodges, who is a threat to win the 400 meters and anchors the Tornado's 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that also should contend.

Hodges, the daughter of the North Medford coach, missed a month of the season with a hamstring injury and returned just in time for last week's Southern Oregon Conference district meet, in which she posted victories in all three events.

Her performance left her with 12 district titles in her career, tying her with former Medford High star Sandy Thomas for the most ever.

The younger Hodges enters the state meet with the fourth-fastest qualifying time in the 400 (58.62), while the Tornado's 4x400 relay is ranked second (4:01.82) and the 4x100 squad fourth (49.49).

Brittany had a good week of practice and we think her times can get quite a bit faster, Mark Hodges says.

The Tornado has another individual title hopeful in distance ace Danielle Jordan, who posted the second-fastest qualifying time in the 3,000 (10:11.26) and the fifth-fastest clocking in the 1,500 (4:44.15).

North Medford also expects to pick up points from Rachel Munyon in the discus and Stephanie Jensen in the javelin, and could get bonus points from Munyon in the shot put, Lisa Louie in the pole vault and Jenna Siebenlist in the 100 hurdles.

The Tornado won 10 events at district and scored what is believed to be a district-record 204 points last week, but the season wouldn't be complete without a strong showing at state, Mark Hodges says.

The state meet is the ultimate test, the ultimate barometer, he says.

South Medford's Kaylyn Knutson, meanwhile, is shooting for a state title in the girls long jump. Knutson had just the sixth-best qualifying jump at 17-9&

188; , but she went 18-4&

189; earlier this season and has had a habit of jumping well in big meets.

Pendleton's Sarajane Rosenberg leads the state with a mark of 18-9&

189; , and five jumpers have surpassed 18 feet.

As for the 4A boys, top local hopefuls include North Medford's David Faaeteete, Eagle Point's Robbie Johnston, Crater's Jason James and South Medford's Ryan Neuenschwander.

Faaeteete owns the state's leading mark in the discus at 175-6 and he ranks third in the shot put at 56-7. Faaeteete is highly motivated after failing to place in either event last season.

David wants to redeem himself, coach Hodges says.

Johnston possesses the state's No. — pole vault mark at 16 feet, while James has the second-fastest time in the 110 hurdles (14.7) and the third-fastest clocking in the 300 hurdles (38.55). Neuenschwander has the fourth-best clocking in the latter event (38.64).

As a team, the Crater boys could be in the title hunt. In addition to James, Greg Dallaire figures to score in the 800 (1:57.07), Dan LeBel should acquire points in the high jump (6-4) and the Comets' 4x400 relay team of James, Dallaire, LeBel and Geoff Donaldson has posted the fourth-fastest time in the 4x400 relay (3:24.65).

Dallaire also qualified to run the 400, but he dropped out of that event to focus on the 800 and relay.

Our goal is to go up there and bring home some hardware, Crater coach Hans Smith says. We don't have much room for error, but the kids are excited to see what they can do.

Among Rogue Valley's Class 3A competitors, several have impressive marks, including state leaders Kyle Gillette, Jeremiah Lewman and Jon Riley.

Phoenix's Gillette tops the 1,500 field with a time of 3:59.0.

North Valley's Lewman has a sizable edge over the 300 hurdles brigade with a time of 38.65.

Illinois Valley's Jon Riley has launched the javelin 187 feet.

Others among the elite are pole vaulter Ryan Musselman of Hidden Valley, who has gone 15-4.

On the girls side, Shannon Jentzsch and Danielle Holmes, both of Rogue River, are state-title contenders.

Jentzsch has cleared 11-9 in the pole vault, only one inch off the mark of leader Chelsea Russell of LaPine.

Holmes is one of only a handful of girls to heave the shot put more than 39 feet, going 39-3.

North Medford pole vaulter Lisa Louie could play a major factor in helping the Black Tornado girls garner a trophy at this weekend?s Class 4A state meet. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman