The team of runners from Tigard and Tualatin is looking to repeat as Portland to Coast champs
by: DAN BROOD, READY TO RUN — The Tigard-based Pen Island team is looking for its second straight Portland to Coast relay race victory. The team includes (top row, from left) Nick Lennartz, Brian Westlund, Justin Karr, Dominic Ferraris, (bottom row) Sean Fekete, Gary Roberson and Jake Turner. The race starts on Friday.

TIGARD - They're looking to repeat the feat.

To do that, they're going to have to use their feet - a lot.

A group of runners from the Tigard and Tualatin area are hoping to repeat their winning performance from a year ago.

The team, named Pen Island, will try for its second straight victory when it takes to the streets for the Nationwide Portland to Coast High School Challenge, a 127-mile relay running race that will start Friday at 6 p.m. in Portland and finish Saturday in Seaside.

'We've got our core group back from last year,' said team captain Justin Karr, who is about to start his senior year at Tigard High School. 'I think we're stronger than last year.'

Last year, under the name Bent Over Breathing, the local team won the Portland to Coast High School Challenge in a time of 13 hours, 43 minutes and 13 seconds. That put the Tigard-based team nearly 52 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher, The Blue Line, from Hillsboro, which had a time of 14:35.09.

'I didn't expect us to win last year,' Karr said. 'I was pessimistic. But Jake (Turner) expected that we'd win. He told us we'd win.'

Not only did the team win last year's Portland to Coast race, with 12 runners each running two legs of the relay event, but the squad was also the very first team - including teams from the Hood to Coast Relay and the Portland to Coast Relay Walk - to cross the finish line in Seaside.

'I think we scared some walkers, running by them in the dark,' said Turner, who is a 2006 Tigard High School graduate.

'By the second leg, we were in the lead,' Karr said. 'By 3 a.m., we were confident that we were going to win. When we were the first ones to the beach, hardly anyone was there. They were setting up for the Hood to Coast race.'

Many of the runners from the winning team, including Tualatin senior Gary Roberson, who, Karr says 'was one of our strongest runners last year,' is back this year. And the returnees say they're even more prepared this year.

'I got sick last year,' said Nick Lennartz, who will be a Tigard senior. 'I ate the wrong things, and the sleep depravation gets to you, too. The information and experience we got last year will help this year.'

Not only that, but, as they prepare to try to defend its title, the team has been training harder than it did last year.

'I've been training 10 times more than I did last year,' said Brian Westlund, who will be a Tigard senior. 'It's getting easier. We've also had good team bonding.'

'Everyone has put in a lot of work,' Karr said.

'We've done a lot of running together,' Lennartz said.

So, the Pen Island team has experience, has put in the training and, oh yeah, the squad is plenty motivated.

Sean Fekete, a 2006 Tigard High School graduate, is motivated. As a Tiger senior, Fekete was part of the Tigard boys cross country team that just missed qualifying for the Class 4A state meet.

'Last year was disappointing,' Fekete said. 'This is a chance to go out on a good note.'

The squad also picked up some extra motivation looking at the seeding in the Boys Open Division for the Portland to Coast Relay.

Pen Island is the No. 5 seed for the race, with a conservative anticipated finish time, submitted by Karr, of 13:35.32.

A team named Neon Soldiers is the No. 1 seed, submitting an anticipated finish time of 12:24.00. A team called Goodfish is the No. 2 seed with an anticipated time of 12;47.19.

'That gives us incentive to go faster,' Turner said. 'This is some extra motivation.'

'I'm fired up,' Karr said, looking at the seeding sheet. 'No joke.'

That said, Pen Island is taking some lofty goals, besides repeating as champion, into Friday's race.

'Our goal is to break the 13-hour mark,' Karr said. 'Jake said we're going to break the record.'

The record in the Boys Open Division for the Portland to Coast Relay is 12:28.53, set by Boys From the Hood in 2001.

With that in its site, the Pen Island team, which also includes Dominic Ferraris, Michael Hinds, Austin Rufener and Jake Wheeler among others, is ready to run for glory again.

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