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Tornado on fast track to title

The North Medford High girls track team amassed 53 of its 140.5 points in the five sprint races at last year's Southern Oregon Conference district track and field meet.

The five speedsters who racked up nearly all those points in the short races are still wearing Black Tornado uniforms.

And here's the kicker. Perhaps the most talented North Medford sprinter of all ' senior Justin Lawson ' missed the 2005 SOC meet with a leg injury.

The upshot? The Tornado is on a fast track to claim its fourth straight district title. First-year head coach Pete Voskes says his team also has its sights set on winning a state trophy, which go to the top four teams at the Class 4A state meet.

We sat down as a group in January and decided that was going to be one of our goals, says Voskes, who inherited the head coaching position from Mark Hodges. A good part of this program is built on getting to the state meet and doing well.

— Lawson won district titles in the 200, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay as a freshman, but sat out most of last season with pulled tendons in her right ankle. She received treatments in the offseason and showed great promise in January when she ran a 400 in 60.1 seconds at an indoor meet in Seattle.

She was excited about that, Voskes says. I think it's helped her training because it gave an idea of what she's capable of doing.

Fleet feet churn throughout the Tornado sprint corps.

Junior Sara Weeks returns as the defending district 100-meter champion. Weeks also ran a leg on North Medford's 4x100 relay that took home a blue ribbon last year and finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles.

Senior Molly Brophy is back in the 100 and 200, where she was the district runner-up in both races last season, junior Irene Kendig returns in the sprints, relays and long jump, where she soared to a school-record 17-feet, 7-inches and took third at the state meet, and junior Ashley Berry will contribute in the 400 and high jump.

Then there's junior Haley Godfrey, yet another sprinter and standout high jumper. Godfrey sailed over the bar at 5-4 last season and tied for third at the state meet.

Everybody's back, a year older and more confident, says Voskes of his sprinters. We have the potential to score big points in pretty much every meet.

Voskes will showcase his runners in some major meets prior to district, including the Oakland Relays over spring break and the Sacramento Meet of Champions on April 29 in which 160 teams are entered.

That Sacramento meet is like a pre-state meet in California, Voskes says. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we'll see some good times.

While the sprints are North Medford's forte, it can hold its own in other areas. In the distances, Brittney Dunn took third at district in the 3,000 and fourth in the 1,500 last year. This spring, she'll be joined by junior Jade Severson, who sat out last season with torn ankle ligaments but came back in the fall to claim fourth place at the district cross country meet.

Ashley Chambers returns as the district runner-up in the triple jump, Megan Ross is back as one of the SOC's better javelin throwers and Natasha Minor rejoins the team in the hurdles.

Voskes admits the Tornado could struggle in the pole vault, shot put and discus, but the team is so loaded in so many other events it probably won't matter.

South Medford, meanwhile, has a shot to unseat its cross-town rival. The Panthers competed to their full abilities at district last spring, posting personal bests all over the track to get second.

Senior hurdlers Jan Frodsham and Katrina Stevens lead the way for South. The duo went 1-2 in both the 100- and 300-meter events and ran legs on the Panthers' 4x400 relay that took second and advanced to the state meet.

The Panthers have another state quality athlete in junior Andrea Herman, who won a district title in the discus and then achieved a 7-foot personal record at the state meet (124-10) to take fifth.

She's the real deal, South Medford coach Bill Rowan says of Herman.

Another Panther meriting mention is junior Kendall Gallop, who achieved a 2&

189; -foot PR on her final attempt in the triple jump (34-4) to win a district title.

Junior Sara Baldoni, who finished fourth in the 400, and sophomores Christine Boothby and Taylor Harrington will help out in the sprints.

We've got some top guns, but we've also got a lot of young kids in certain events, Rowan says. Hopefully, we can mix them in and be a contending team by the district meet.

Another contending team is Grants Pass, which lost state 800-meter champion Katelyn VanBrunt to graduation but returns Audrey Richardson, Anna Lovelace and Amanda Straw off its state champion 4x400 relay squad.

Courtney Cameron, the alternate on the state relay team that clocked a school-record time of 3:56.38, is also back.

We think our relay team can be as good or better than last year, Grants Pass coach Carl Sniffen says.

Straw is also a state-caliber high jumper. She cleared 5-5 to win district last spring and has a goal of going 5-8 this season, Sniffen says.

Other Cavers to watch include pole vaulter Amanda Potts, who took second at district last season with a mark of 10-4; sophomore distance runners Lorine Cruz and Laurel Parks; and freshman Tasha Torgerson, who broke school records in the throwing events at North Middle School last year.

Roseburg could also be in the hunt at district, especially if Julie Piper, a first-team all-conference basketball player, and transfer freshman sprinter Rachel Erickson pan out.

SOC GIRLS TRACK PREVIEW"dhunt@mailtribune.com.

North Medford senior Molly Brophy leads a talented group of sprinters for the Black Tornado. Last year she finished second in both the 100 and 200 meters. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli