The Tigard-based team wins again at the Portland-to-Coast relay race
by: submitted photo, THE VICTORS — The Tigard-based Pen Island team ran to victory at the Portland to Coast High School Challenge 127-mile relay race held Saturday and Sunday.

TIGARD - It didn't matter that they were neck-and-neck with the competition halfway through the race.

It didn't even matter that Brian Westlund took a wrong turn.

The runners on the Tigard-based Pen Island relay running team weren't going to be denied.

The Pen Island squad triumphed at the 127-mile Nationwide Insurance High School Challenge race, held Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with the Hood to Coast race.

The win was the second straight for the team, which won last year under the name of Bent Over Breathing.

'It was more gratifying this year,' said Nick Lennartz, who will soon start his senior year at Tigard High School. 'It proves last year wasn't a fluke.'

Last year, the Tigard team won the High School challenge in a time of 13 hours, 43 minutes and 13 seconds. This year, the Pen Island squad triumphed in a time of 13:19.39. The Couve Boys, from Vancouver, Wash., were second in a time of 13:56.12.

'We were a lot more prepared this year,' Pen Island's Austin Rufener said.

'We trained a lot harder and took it seriously,' Westlund said.

'It's important to us,' Dominic Ferraris said. 'We were the only team with matching uniforms.'

Still, near the midway part of the race, Pen Island found itself running side-by-side with The Couve Boys.

'That was scary,' Lennartz said.

But the Tigard team pulled away in the second half of the race.

'Everyone improved a lot on their second leg,' Westlund said.

'Gary Roberson (of Tualatin) rank like a fireball,' Pen Island captain Justin Karr said.

Pen Island gradually opened up a comfortable lead, but, thanks to Westlund, there was still a bit of drama near the end of the race.

Westlund, running the last leg of the race for Pen Island, was way out in front of the pack. In fact, he was so far out in front, that there weren't any race volunteers out yet to point him in the right direction when he came into a fork in the trail.

'I was about five miles away from the finish,' Westlund said. 'I came to a split in the trail in the forest and I took the left trail. It was the wrong trail. Once I realized I was lost, I tried to go through some blackberry bushes, but I ended up turning around and going back.'

Westlund said the unexpected detour cost him about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, his teammates didn't know what was going on.

'We were all getting mad at him,' Jake Turner said.

By the time Westlund got back on the right track, Pen Island and still far out in front and hit the finish line at Seaside near 7 a.m.

'Seaside was like a ghost town when we got there,' Karr said.

But the Tigard team had plenty of time for celebration, including racing peddle bikes at Tillamook Head and also crowd surfing.

'It was a lot of fun,' Lennartz said.

Now, the team is already looking ahead to next year.

'We want to three-peat. That has never happened before,' Karr said.

'We'll win again next year,' Turner added.

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