By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The McKay Girls Cross Country team enters 2019 with a lot of fire power potential to contend for the State Race as a team this season.
With powerhouse Summit on top on the girls side, the Scots, along with like Bend, Mountain View and South Salem will battle it out for the Top 3 qualifying spots out of the Mountain Valley Conference this Fall with West Salem on their heels.
With no Senior girls on a cast that features Sydney Haines, Ximena Nava, Alex Blake, Stephanie Urenda, Tess Barnett, Jazmine Liebl coming back from their fifth-place finish at Districts in 2018, McKay’s in favorable position entering Friday’s Night Meet at Wilsonville High School.
“More people have been coming out this summer. Ximena has a lot faster and everyone’s been building and building from last year. I feel like we’re going to do a lot better this year,” said Barnett
“Ximena Nava has been looking fantastic. Alex Blake has been really strong all summer. Stephanie Urenda has been looking stronger then I’ve ever seen her,” adds Head Coach Jason Zellick. “Even in her sprinting…we don’t have a single Senior on our team. We have something like 14 sophomores, so our team is young, but they’re talented.”
It’s all about piecing it all together said Zellick.
Liebl, the Scots highest finisher at Districts in Bend last Fall at 13th, showed a strong performance in her first-ever season during Cross Country as the Junior looks to continue that strong trend into her Junior season.
“I think I did pretty well with it being my first year. I’m pretty excited, I think I can improve if I put my mind to it,” said Liebl.
Liebl finished 34th at the Ash Creek XC Festivtal, 27th at the Meriwether National Cross Country Classic, 25th at the Oxford Classic and won the 5K Varsity Division 3 Nike Portland XC race in Portland last year.
But joining the team is the Kaydence Nguyen from Adam Stephens Middle School, who finished third in the 3K All-City race as an eighth-grader in 2019 and had a second-place finish at the Champoeg Invitational while running with the Salem Track Club over the Fall. With that ability to do some damage, the strong core coming back knows that they’ll have to step it up to keep up with the incoming freshman.
“Kaydence is coming in, and she’s always been fast ever since she was smaller, so this year it’s going to be really good because she’s going to be the Top 3 of our team. We want to stay with her because we don’t want to be behind a freshman, so we want to push ourselves to be with her,” smiled Barnett.
On the guys side, it’s a little bit different. It’s a upperclassmen heavy team that includes Ramiro Gonzalez and Erick Ambrocio. Ambrocio was named a captain with Barnett and Nava too being captain’s of the Scots entering this season as Juan Mora returns as well to help out with the incoming freshman who are coming in this season for the Scots guys.
Gonzalez, who with returning teammate Claudio Miranda (Junior), finished 30th and 31st respectively at Districts as the highest finishers for McKay last season. Gonzalez this summer has been putting in work as he has set the goal to qualify for the State Meet this year as Districts are held at Bush Park this season.
“I want to do my best. It’s my dream to go to State, so I’ve been coming out every day and some days I’ve do bad, some days I do good but I still try to do my best,” said Gonzalez as he looks to chase his State goal moving forward. “By training and not giving up.”
The Scots will have one home meet this season, on October 15 with South Salem and Sprague at Bush Park.