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Brauer just giving it her best

The Portland Lutheran senior puts together four state runner-up efforts in her final season
by: David Ball Portland Lutheran senior Ali Brauer has posted seven runner-up state finishes between swimming and track and field during her high school career. She is headed to Lewis & Clark College in the fall.

Portland Lutheran senior Ali Brauer has finished her prep career as one of the most accomplished endurance athletes to come through the school, but that success didn't come easy.

Brauer set the bar high coming onto the prep scene as an accomplished middle-school runner, who had already found her share of success on the Junior Olympic track and field circuit. She lived up to those lofty expectations her rookie year, climbing the awards podium in both the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter finals at her first state meet.

Then came the tough part.

She remained a regular state qualifier, but the numbers on the stopwatch were going the wrong direction. Her times from eighth grade were holding up as her best performances.

Her parents, John and Suzanne, point to painful growing pains as a possible culprit with Ali shooting up six inches during her high school years.

'You ache for the kid. She was out there putting in the effort, but just wasn't seeing the results,' John said. 'But in running you have some years that are up and others that are down. You have to persevere through those down years, and trust that good years will follow.'

Her father's words rang true her senior year, as Ali rewrote the school's record book in all of its distance events from cross country in the fall to track in the spring. She trimmed 15 seconds from her personal-best in the 3,000 and took 10 seconds off her best time in the 1,500.

'I put in some more mileage in the pool during swim season, and I could feel I was faster right away when track started,' Ali said.

John was a hidden gem on the track scene at the University of Oregon in the early 1980s, getting discovered during his first term on campus when a PE class ended with a time trial.

Ducks' track coach Bill Dellinger just happened to be the teacher with the stopwatch at the finish line. His custom was to allow the top few finishers to try out for the team.

And that's how John, a late-bloomer, came to wear green and yellow for the next four years.

'One day I'm running in a PE class, the next I'm training with Alberto Salazar and getting left in the dust by these world-class runners,' he says.

While not enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame, John did make a sizeable impact, placing fifth in the steeplechase at the Pac-10 championships during his junior year.

Seeing similarities between his own racing career and his daughter's, John was careful to keep Ali on a low-mileage training regime. Her runs maxed out at about five miles, and her weekly load was about half that of other top-level prep runners across the state.

'Her parents didn't want to burn her out, running in college was always something Ali wanted to do,' Blue Jays' cross country coach John Roady said. 'She was always really good at pacing herself - she's a smart runner, who goes out to the front and just keeps going. Ali never looks tired in a race.'

Her college wishes will come true in the fall as she is headed to Lewis and Clark where she will continue her running career along with her other main sport - swimming. That is Suzanne's area of expertise, growing up as a competitive age-group swimmer, she also worked out the kinks that allowed Ali to basically be a one-person swim team during her time at Portland Lutheran, representing the Blue Jays at state her final three years.

Between a constant flow of after-school activities, Ali's greatest success has been in the classroom where she graduates as the valedictorian with a 4.0 Grade Point Average.

'She's intense about her grades,' Suzanne says. 'You never have to pester her about homework, if anything, we have to tell her to put it away and get to bed.'

'I can't live with myself if I'm not giving it my best,' Ali said.

Look for our school-by-school picks in the June 11 Outlook, while our Big-School awards will be announced Wednesday, June 15.