The Astoria cross country teams are lined up and ready to run, as the Fishermen get set for what promises to be another exciting season. It's exciting because the Fish have a lot to defend this year.

Both the Fishermen boys and the Astoria girls won league championships in 2002, and while the boys return as the favorites, it will be a tough feat to repeat for the girls.

"We lost a lot of runners - five girls and four guys," said Astoria coach Spence Barker. "Luckily we were pretty deep with the boys, but the girls didn't have a JV team last year.

"We managed to recruit some runners, so we have a pretty good team with real potential," he said, "but they're really young, both boys and girls."

The Astoria boys may not have quantity when it comes to experience, but they do have quality.

The top returner is senior Tomás Morrissey, the 2002 Cowapa League champion who placed fourth in the state meet last November.

Also back for his senior season is Gordon Eckert, who took third in the league meet and 30th at state. Jason Holyoak (seventh place in the league meet) returns for his senior year.

The Fishermen ran away with the boys' Cowapa League title last year, scoring 29 points to 51 for second-place Scappoose, which lost top runner Nick Jenkins to graduation.

"I know Scappoose will be strong, both boys and girls, and the Seaside girls especially will be formidable competitors," Barker said. "The Seaside boys team also looks better, and Scappoose always looks good. Rainier has 25 guys out, and a full team for girls, which is new for them. That will give us some good competition."

There may not be much competition for Morrissey, at least until the state meet.

"Tomás is in incredible shape right now," Barker said. "He's a lot faster than he was last year. He came in fourth at state, and he's running a lot faster. Who knows what can happen? Tomás is really going to need some people to push him."

Morrissey "put in 300-plus (miles) over the summer, so he's looking really strong. He's doing a lot of hills right now, and we'll get him into some speed work later on. He ran in the Portland-to-Coast, and he was averaging 5:30 miles, and that was taking it easy."

Astoria has one junior - Clay Barrick - and the rest of the team's depth will come from its sophomore class.

Jonnie Dunne, who made Astoria's trip to Eugene for last year's state meet, is back for his sophomore season.

Other sophomores on the list include Drew Gustafson, Ben Lilley, Ian MacDougall, Willy Teneyck, Robbie Weidman and Johnny Wilson, last year's eighth runner on the varsity roster.

Astoria's two incoming freshmen are Josh Banta and Skyler Butenshon.

Other than Morrissey, Eckert and Holyoak, "it's wide open for the four remaining spots," Barker said.

The Astoria girls will be fairly heavy on the young side this year, as the Fishermen have just two seniors - Amy Landwehr, who spent last year in Germany, and Jeannie Waller.

Astoria got lucky in 2002, when soccer players Sara Morrissey and Maria Vidas showed up to run at the end of the season.

The result was a league title. Sara Morrissey's fourth-place finish in the Cowapa meet helped the Fishermen edge Scappoose by four points.

The Indians have all seven runners of their state-qualifying team returning, while Astoria lost five of its seven to graduation, including Ami Rothberg, Morrissey, Vidas, Ashley Riutta and Kara Geertz.

Astoria has no juniors on this year's team, with four sophomores - returners Katie Choate (who missed most of last season with an injury) and Danielle DeBoer, along with Kelly Pierce and McKenzie Rasgo.

Two freshmen who expect to contribute are Maia Donachy and Mary Green.

Donachy is "a real talent," Barker said. "She won the 1,500 at the state Junior Olympics. And Mary Green should be a force to be reckoned with.

"I think we'll have a good, young team," he said, "with a good-sized boys team and a small girls team, but I think we'll hold our own."

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