Track: Tigard's Kelsi Schaer, behind her amazing finishing kick, wins the 1,500 at state
by: DAN BROOD TRIUMPHANT TIGER — Tigard senior Kelsi Schaer smiles as she reaches the finish line in the 1,500.

EUGENE - Well, now there's proof.

Dreams really can come true.

They can. Just ask Kelsi Schaer.

And, no doubt about it, Schaer dreams big - championship big.

Schaer, a Tigard High School senior, saw her dreams come true in thrilling, dramatic fashion as she ran to a breathtaking victory in the 1,500-meter run Saturday at the Class 6A state track and field championships, held at Hayward Field.

'It's like a dream come true,' Schaer said after receiving her state championship medal. 'Since I was a freshman I saw all of these great runners here. This is my last 1,500 in high school, and to win it is literally a dream come true.'

Schaer's victory highlighted a strong showing by the Tigard girls team at the state meet, held Friday and Saturday in Eugene.

And, not only was Schaer's victory a highlight for the Tigers, but the race, where she outdueled multi-state champion Annamarie Maag of Jesuit and St. Mary's standout freshman Paige Rice, in a sprint to the finish provided one of the major highlights of the entire meet.

'It was such an honor to run with them,' Schaer said. 'To be able to beat them feels just amazing.'

Even before the 1,500 started, Schaer, who will run next year at the collegiate level for Oregon State University, knew she might be in for something very special.

'Yesterday, I was tight in the 800. Today, I was relaxed and loose,' Schaer said. 'At the starting line, I said I was ready to run.'

Schaer was in sixth place at the end of the first 300 meters of the race. She was seventh at the end of the second lap and she was in sixth place, but close to the front, going into the bell lap.

That's when things really got exciting.

Schaer started to make her way past the runners ahead of her. Then, with about 200 meters left to go, only the daunting duo of Maag and Rice were in front of the Tigard senior.

That's when Schaer decided it was time to kick things in high gear.

'Usually, I start my kick with 150 left,' Schaer said. 'But I realized that would be a little too late, so I went at 200. In that last 200, I knew I had to go all out. I had to leave it all out there.

'I wanted to win, and I went all out.'

Coming around the final turn before the home stretch, Schaer, moving to the outside, caught up to Maag and Rice. She then powered her way into the lead, bringing the Hayward Field crowd to its feet.

'I knew I had it with about 50 meters left to go,' Schaer said. 'I was off of Paige's shoulder. It was an amazing feeling.'

Schaer crossed the finish line in a winning time of 4 minutes, 37.03 seconds. Rice was second at 4:37.47 and Maag was third at 4:37.78.

'At the finish line, I was crying tears of joy,' Schaer said. 'I was so excited. I felt so enthusiastic. And I'm sure my mom (Christi Schaer) is crying up in the stands.'

In addition to her thrilling victory in the 1,500, Schaer also placed sixth in the 800 in a time of 2:20.03.

She capped off her big day at the state meet by teaming with fellow Tigard seniors Katie Humphrey and Diana Merchant and freshman Lindsey Rosette to run to seventh place in the 4 x 400 relay in a time of 4:01.50.

'For the seniors, we've come full circle,' said Merchant, who, along with Schaer and Humphrey, have been strong runners for the Tigers since they were freshmen.

'What matters most is we got here together,' Humphrey said. 'We always hope to do well and try our hardest. These are amazing teammates.'

'It's an honor to be here in the first place,' Schaer said of the relay. 'We've bonded so well as a team.'

While Schaer, Merchant and Humphrey ended their Tigard track careers with the relay, Rosette, running in the state meet for the first time, seemed to feel honored to run with the three seniors.

'I look up to them so much,' she said. 'They're the most amazing girls in the world.'

In addition to the relay, Humphrey finished in seventh place in the 300 low hurdles in a time of 47.45. Tigard freshman Megan Franz finished in ninth place in the 1,500 with a mark of 4:51.84.

The Tigard girls finished in 14th place in the team standings at the state meet with 17 points.

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