Michael Kilburg surprised even himself by placing sixth in the 3,000 meters in last weekend's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at Fayetteville, Ark.
The University of Portland senior figures he had some help.
Kilburg's mother, AnnMarie, died of ovarian cancer two weeks before Michael started school at UP in 2003. After Kilburg - who had never before run on a banked track - clocked 14 minutes, 6 seconds in pulling off the stunner at Arkansas, his coach at Seattle's O'Dea High, Andy Slatt, e-mailed Pilot coach Rob Conner.
'Congratulations on Michael's race,' Slatt wrote. 'Nobody knows he has a guardian angel running with him.'
'I was thinking about her right before the race,' Kilburg says. 'I knew she was going to be there to help me through it, and she was.'
Kilburg's other inspiration is his father, Mike, who never has missed a race of his son's - through middle school, high school and college.
'Dad's a software engineer whose schedule is not all that flexible,' the junior Kilburg says. 'But they understand that when I have a race, he needs to be there.'
Kilburg mostly ran the race as preparation for an outdoor season in which he will focus on the 10,000. He qualified the week before through last-minute entry in a meet at Seattle, running a school indoor-record 13:49. That got him to Arkansas, where he turned his identity as an unknown into All-America status.
'Given who (Kilburg) is, it might be one of the greatest races in Pilot history,' Conner says.
• Conner returned from Arkansas the day before Portland's annual Shamrock Run. He toured the 9.3-mile course in what he considered a pedestrian 59:30 - but remarkable since it came two months after he had a kidney removed.
The UP coach donated his kidney to a Seattle woman, whose husband in turn gave a kidney to Conner's mother, Shirley.
'I'm completely out of shape, and it's going to be a long haul to get back,' Conner says. 'I was hoping to feel good on the run, but it wasn't comfortable. Healthwise, though, I'm just fine.'
• Nobody was happier for Portland State to make the NCAA basketball tournament than Ime Udoka.
'I'm extremely excited,' says the San Antonio Spurs' swing man, a Jefferson High grad who played for the Vikings during the 1999-2000 season. 'It was a big accomplishment - the first time ever for the school.'
As his Spur teammates headed for New Orleans, Las Vegas, Mexico and points unknown during the NBA All-Star break, Udoka returned home to Portland to spend time with family, watch a pair of PSU games and visit with Viking coach Ken Bone.
When Udoka came out of Jefferson, Bone recruited him at Seattle Pacific. They renewed their relationship when Bone took over at PSU, and Udoka keeps in touch with him during the season.
'In the summer, I'm (at the park blocks) all the time working out, and he keeps gym space for me,' Udoka says. 'If you're a player in the Northwest, you know Ken Bone and what he's been doing. He's done a great job with that program.'
• Plans for a move of sports programming from KXL (750 AM) to its sister station Jammin 95.5 FM are on the back burner - for now.
Talks to lure ESPN from the Fan (1080 AM) and to land the new Dan Patrick program proved fruitless. KXL.com has been streaming the Jim Rome show - distributed by Premier Sports Network, which has a relationship with Fox - for a couple of weeks, and Rome could wind up on Paul Allen-owned KXL at some point.
• At 83, Jack Ramsay is enjoying a life of good health after a cancer scare.
Two years ago, the former Trail Blazer coach was diagnosed with melanoma, which spread from his foot, calf and groin to his lungs and brain. After initially undergoing chemotherapy through a port in his chest, Ramsay has been on oral chemo for a little more than a year.
'The last two scans, in September and January, have been clean,' says Ramsay, still working regularly as an analyst for ESPN radio. The treatments are 'apparently doing unusual things for me. I feel good.'
• One of the drawbacks to a job in the media is missing important family time.
Michael Holton found out firsthand last week when he missed all of his sons' games as Sunset High earned third place at the Class 6A basketball tournament in Eugene.
Both Holton boys - 6-1 sophomore Anthony and 5-11 junior Michael Jr. - are key reserves on the Sunset team that won the Metro League title and beat North Medford in last Saturday's third-place game.
The senior Holton missed Thursday's quarterfinal while serving as studio analyst for the Blazers' loss at Sacramento. On Friday, he flew to Las Cruces, N.M., to work as analyst for Saturday night's Western Athletic Conference championship game, forcing him to miss the Apollos' final two state tourney games.
'It's definitely hard,' says the former Blazer guard, who says work commitments limited him to watching his boys play in about a half-dozen regular-season games this year. 'I would love to be at those games, but I like feeding them more than I like watching them play.'
• Last Saturday was a big day for ex-Beaverton High athletes.
In San Luis Obispo, Calif., UCLA senior second baseman Alden Carrithers registered his second four-hit performance of the weekend, leading the Bruins past Cal Poly 12-9.
In Reno, Nevada senior right fielder Mike Hale blasted his first career home run for the Wolf Pack off the reigning College World Series MVP, Oregon State's Jorge Reyes, in a 17-10 loss.
And in Las Cruces, N.M., Boise State redshirt freshman guard Paul Noonan sank four straight free throws in the third overtime to help the Broncos past New Mexico State 107-102 in the WAC championship game.