Jodi Minard never pictured herself as much of an athlete. Until the eighth grade, the diminutive Rogue River distance runner never even participated in sports.
Now in her junior year, Minard is not only the premier distance runner in the Skyline Conference, but she's in the state's upper echelon among 3A runners.
Minard finished second in the 3,000 meters and fifth in the 1,500 meters at the state meet as a sophomore. This year, the 5-foot-1, 105-pounder has her sights set higher.
I'd like to be a contender for the state championship in the 3,000, says Minard, 16. It will be a tough field.
Minard helped Rogue River to its second straight state cross country championship last fall after winning her second straight conference title.
She's finished fourth and fifth at state the past two years. A stress fracture on the top of her right foot contributed to the less-than-stellar results in 1997.
The last couple of cross country races were pretty tough, she says of last fall. It hurt quite a bit, but I did OK for that situation.
Her grit explains part of the reason for her success as a distance runner.
Jodi is a complete person, Rogue River cross country and assistant track coach Stan Goodell says. She's a very trainable young lady. She sets standards higher than the coaches set for her.
Minard trains about 40 miles a week. She also does a lot of speed work, running 400-meter bursts in practice.
Her race strategy doesn't change much. She paces herself early, then gets faster as the race evolves.
It's all a mental game, says Minard. There's times when you have three laps to go and you don't think you have it in you. That's where our workouts come in because they are harder than the race.
Minard, who moved to Oregon from Southern California as a sixth-grader, discovered her running talents as a middle-schooler.
A girl moved to town who was a good all-around athlete, says Minard. Distance running was the only thing I could beat her at.
Attending a running camp encouraged her to try out for cross country as a Rogue River freshman. But she still had her doubts.
In my first race, I wasn't expecting to do as well as I did, says Minard. It boosted me.
But her next race at Gold Beach -- where she improved on her time by — 1/2 minutes -- sold her on the sport.
It was a time my coach told me I could get by the end of the year, and I achieved it after my second race, says Minard, That's when I realized I wanted to pursue running.
That season, Minard finished seventh in the conference and 17th at state in cross country.
Minard has her sights set on Githa Hampson's 3,000 school record of 10 minutes, 15 seconds. Minard's best at this point is 10:31.
Not only does Minard have personal goals, but there's the motivation to unseat Henley as conference champion.
The Hornets have won 12 straight girls conference titles and have been the conference champion every year but one dating back to the beginning of the Skyline Conference in 1971.
It's been a banner year for the Rogue River girls athletic teams. The Chieftains have captured conference championships in soccer and basketball, and its volleyball team advanced to the state tournament. Some girls, such as seniors Annie Rolph and Katy Linderman and junior Mindi Yost, who participated on those other teams, are also key track contributors.
Those three kids will get the team up and talk to anyone slacking off, Rogue River coach Ron Graham says. Jodi is more of a leader by example.
Regardless, derailing Henley for a conference title would be a major achievement. And Rogue River is the only conference foe with any chance of doing that.
Goodell tempers his enthusiasm for the Chieftains' chances of knocking off Henley: I thought last year we had a chance to take them. But in the end, we really didn't even have a shot.
Senior Kerry Teamey, who won four events at district last year leads Henley. The Hornets also return five underclassmen who placed a district.
We usually win with our depth, not our stars, Henley coach Ron Smith says. I think Rogue River is my pick this year. If they're going to do it, they better do it this year.
Skyline girls track preview
1997 district placing
1, Henley 206 1/2 points; 2, Rogue River 122; 3, South Umpqua 89 1/2; 4, Lakeview 71 1/2; 5, Hidden Valley 59 1/2; 6, Illinois Valley 41; 7, North Valley 39; 8, Phoenix 29.
Returning district placers
HENLEY -- Carrie Knox, so. (100, first, 12.95; 200, second, 26.98); Kerry Teamey, sr. (100 HH, first, 16.64; tj, first, 35-8 3/4; hj, first, 5-2; pv, first, 9-0); Quinnan Chappell, sr. (pv, third, 9-0); Janel Spicer, so. (400, fifth, 1:03.87; 800, fifth, 2:31.56); Jenny Pine, jr. (1,500, sixth, 5:10.02; 3,000, third 11:21.62); Mandy Samudio, sr. (100 HH, fourth, 17.49); Brooke Case, jr. (javelin, fifth, 98-6); Katie Harper, jr. (400, fourth, 1:03.56).
ROGUE RIVER -- Jodi Minard, jr. (1,500, first, 4:55.67; 3,000, first, 10:59.75); Mindi Yost, jr. (100 HH, second, 16.88; 300 LH, second, 48.30); Annie Rolph, sr. (lj, third, 14-10); Selena Harman, so. (3,000, second, 11:15.13); Katy Linderman, sr. (javelin, fourth, 100-9); Tara Yant, sr. (discus, third, 113-2; 200, sixth, 27.83).
SOUTH UMPQUA -- Danielle Shirtcliff, sr. (javelin, first, 121-2; 300 LH, third, 48.97); Chrissie Cramer, so. (100, fourth, 13.30; pv, sixth, 8-6); Kami Weaver, jr. (lj, fourth, 14-7 1/2).
LAKEVIEW -- Kelli Holloway, jr. (shot, first, 40-8 3/4; discus, second, 120-3); Erica Coon, jr. (tj, fourth, 32-3; hj, tied for fourth, 4-10); Breanna Sabin, jr. (pv, fifth 8-6); Shantay Sabin, so. (300 LH, fifth, 50.37); Monique Haufle, sr. (800, third, 2:29.44).
HIDDEN VALLEY -- Rachel Muneyyirci, sr. (400, third, 1:00.85; 200, fourth, 27.48); Alanna Steinart, so, (3,000, fourth, 11:22.65; 1,500, fifth, 5:08.97); Cortnee Johns, sr. (pv, second, 9-0).
ILLINOIS VALLEY -- Kena Page, sr. (lj, first, 16-7 1/4; hj, second, 5-1; tj, second 34-5 1/2; Amber Emery, jr. (100 HH, sixth, 17.88; 300 LH, fourth, 49.97); Becky Sauer, sr. (discus, sixth, 98-8).
NORTH VALLEY -- none.
PHOENIX -- Jennifer Bones, so. (hj, third, 5-0); Liz Rennick, sr. (tj, fifth, 31-7); Rachel Mackay, jr. (400, sixth, 1:05.36).
The top two placers in each event at district advance to the state meet. Others who meet state qualifying standards may also advance by meeting state standards if the state field is not already filled.
1997 state placing
12, (tie) Rogue River and South Umpqua 20,; 15, (tie) Henley 19; 22, Lakeview; 30 (tie) North Valley 6; 37, (tie) Illinois Valley 4.
Returning state placers
ROGUE RIVER -- Minard (1,500, fifth, 4:53.34; 3,000, second, 10:31.44); Harman (3,000, fourth, 10:44.51).
SOUTH UMPQUA -- Shirtcliff (1,600 relay, first, 4:05.68)
HENLEY -- Teamey (100 HH, seventh, 17.30; hj, seventh, 5-0; Knox (400 relay, third, 50.96; 1,600 relay, fifth, 4:11.77); Samudio (400 relay, third, 50.96); Spicer (1,600 relay, fifth, 4:11.77); Harper (1,600 relay, fifth, 4:11.77)
LAKEVIEW -- Holloway (shot, second, 38-7 1/2; discus, fifth, 115-4).
ILLINOIS VALLEY -- Page (lj, sixth 16-7).
PAGING KENA -- Illinois Valley's Kena Page is a three-sport star for the Cougars. The 5-10 senior is just about a one girl team in track. Page finished first in one event (long jump) and second in two others (triple jump, high jump) at last year's district meet. She finished sixth at state in the long jump. Besides playing volleyball, basketball and track, Page also was involved with acting in spring. This year she's put the acting on hold to concentrate on track.
LAKEVIEW'S LEGACY -- Bobbie Steninger and Dennis Robertson have 64 years of track coaching experience between them. Steninger began the Lakeview girls track program 36 years ago and is still at it. The 60-year-old former Colorado State middle distance runner and javelin thrower has been Lakeview's co-head coach with Robertson for 14 years. Robertson also coached track at Whittier, Calif., for 14 years prior coming to Lakeview.
FAST FRESHMAN -- Phoenix freshman Christina Newcomb burst onto the scene last Saturday by winning the 100 and 200 meters in the 10-team Sutherlin Invitational. The sprinter surely got the attention of other Skyline coaches with her 12.7 time in the 100 -- good enough to win last year's district meet.
DOUBLE TROUBLE -- Hidden Valley's sophomore Steinert twins have gotten off to a successful start with individual victories in the four-team Josephine County meet at Grants Pass last week. Alanna Steinert won the 1,500, while Emily was victorious in the 3,000. Alanna finished fourth in the 3,000 and fifth in the 1,500 in last year's district meet. Emily missed most of last year with an injury. The twins also run legs on the Mustangs 1,600-relay team that has bettered a 14-year school record twice already this season.
Rogue River star on pace for first state track crown