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Strategy helps Greer win 1,500

by: Miles Vance, 
Lake Oswego’s Elijah Greer, right, holds off Lincoln’s Nathan Mathabane to win the 1,500-meter race at last weekend’s state track meet. Greer also ran the anchor of Lake Oswego’s 4x400 relay team that finished fourth.

The Lake Oswego track coaches obviously knew what they were doing when they decided to scratch Elijah Greer from the 800-meter race three days before the beginning of last week's state track meet.

At the time, it seemed like a bold move since Greer had the top qualifying mark in the 800. In the 1,500, which was considered to be his best race, Greer was seeded about one-third of the way down from the top of the pack.

But, by pulling Greer from the 800, it allowed him to focus more on the 1,500 and his anchor leg on the 4x400 relay team. It turned out to be a brilliant move as Greer won the 1,500 in a lightning-fast time of 3:57.76. He finished just .12 of a second ahead of Lincoln's Nathan Mathabane.

Lake Oswego track coach Eric Lider credited distance coach Bob Williams with helping Greer devise the strategy that led to the victory.

When Greer and Mathabane met at the Centennial Invitational last month, Williams advised his star pupil to start his finishing kick with about 500 meters to go. The strategy caught Mathabane by surprise and Greer not only won the race but set the state's best mark, at least at the time.

This time, it was decided that Greer would start his kick with close to 700 meters to go. It was a risky strategy, because even the best conditioned runner could run out energy before reaching the finish line.

Instead, 'Elijah just took off,' Lider said. 'He ran the race to perfection.'

Mathabane did a good job of making it close at the end, but Greer did an even better job of holding onto the lead until the end.

The week before, Greer won district titles in both the 800 and the 1,500. One had to wonder if he was capable of duplicating that feat at the state meet. But Lider didn't want to take the chance of having Greer burn out at state and come home without a title in either race.

'Our goal was to have a state champion,' Lider said. And the best way to accomplish that was to have Greer concentrate on the 1,500.

Greer then capped a superb state meet by helping the Lakers' long relay team finish fourth.

Coming into the district meet, that 4x400 team was ranked only the third-best in the TRL. So, Lider was elated when his team won the league title in that event.

But at state, they were once again an underdog, a team not even expected to advance to the final. Well, that team of Riley Werner, Logan Capps, James Ratliff and Greer surprised a lot of folks in the preliminaries by clocking a time of 3:24, which was approximately seven seconds faster than its winning time at districts. The foursome then went one better the following day with a time of 3:23.08.

'All four of them were just on fire,' Lider said. 'They just kept getting better. As the competition rose, so did they.'

Greer played a big role in that final race when he ran the anchor leg in a time of 49.6. That would have placed him fourth in the 400-meter race.

Meanwhile, the girls short relay team -- which consisted of JoJo Faris, Jacqui Wallis, Kate Mogentale and Mady Johnson - had a similar story to the boys long relay team.

The girls squad entered the state meet ranked 12th. But they turned in the sixth-best qualifying time and finished seventh in the final with a time of 49.98.

'To me, that is the amazing story,' Lider said. 'Those girls just put it together … I was quite proud and pleased.'

In some of the other events, it seemed the Lakers had a lock on ninth place. Tate Murray finished there in the 1,500, Ratliff did the same in the 300 intermediate hurdles (even though he ran a personal record) and Wallis just missed qualifying for the final in the 400 despite beating her PR by nearly two seconds.

'She ran a great race,' Lider said of Wallis.

In addition, Faris took 12th in the girls 100. And the best individual effort, aside from Greer, was turned in by Werner when he took sixth in the 1,500 race that Greer won.

'For him to get sixth was a great effort,' Lider said.