Banks high jumpers Amy Hilger and Lauren Birr have their sights set on returning to the state meet

Lauren Birr and Amy Hilger have known each other since they were in diapers — or at least barely out of them — having met as pre-schoolers.

Now, more than 10 years later, the Banks juniors are teammates in two sports and both teammates and rivals in a third, given that they both specialize in the high jump on the Braves’ track and field team.

But rather than being rancorous and contentious, theirs is a good-natured NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks junior high jumpers Amy Hilger (left) and Lauren Birr share a laugh during practice on Monday afternoon. Both girls qualified for last year's OSAA Class 4A state meet.

“They’re friendly competitors, yet they’re really competitive,” Banks coach Rob Frank said last week, the day before Hilger, Birr and the rest of the Banks varsity track team traveled to Tillamook for the Tillamook Invitational.

That relationship between Hilger and Birr, working in close proximity every day, may be what drives them to greater heights than those they have already reached.

“I love when Amy does good,” Birr said. “If she does better than me at practice or anything, I just keep cheering her on. I mean, I don’t mind it at all.”

Just now into the second half of their high school track careers, both girls have already experienced their fair share of success.

Hilger won the Cowapa League title in 2012 and then landed on the podium with a third-place finish in the OSAA Class 4A state meet a week later in Eugene. Birr, who cleared 5 feet in her first high school meet as a freshman — a mark that she has hit on other occasions but not yet surpassed — advanced to state as both a freshman and a sophomore, placing 10th in 2011 and tying for ninth in 2012.

“I’m hoping to get eighth or higher,” Birr said about her state meet goals for 2013. “I’m hoping to get on that podium this year. I’ve been so close every single time. I just want to get on it.”

As for Hilger, who tied her personal best of 5-3 in Banks’ first meet of this year, called her 2012 state meet “definitely a good experience,” and she also has designs on making a repeat trip.

Of course, either girl might have to knock off the other in order to return to Eugene, which is what Birr did in 2011, when she beat Hilger on misses to place second at the district meet and secure the league’s final berth to state.

But both girls say they are supportive of one another. (“She’s definitely one of my best friends,” Birr said.) And that has also been Frank’s observation.

“I think they play off each other, compete well against each other,” said Frank, who taught both girls when they were in the fourth grade and has worked with them in track since their middle school years.

“It’s good to have them both here because they make each other work. When you have more than one quality person in an event, it always makes everybody else better.”

Both girls have jumping ability, Frank said, and they work hard, they are coachable, and they want to succeed.

“They’ll jump forever,” Frank noted. “You’ve basically got to tell them to go home. It’s just a real commitment to being good.”

While the girls share some similar attributes as athletes, they use distinctly different methods to clear the bar. Frank described Hilger as “more of an up-and-down jumper” and Birr as “more of an arc jumper,” elaborating that Hilger gets vertical more quickly while Birr takes a longer approach and can get as high but travels deeper into the pit. He has tried a longer approach with Hilger and a shorter one with Birr, but the departure did not work for either NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks junior high jumper Amy Hilger, who finished third at last year's OSAA state meet, practices her technique with hed coach Bob Frank during the Lady Brave's practice on Monday afternoon.

“She’s just an amazing athlete overall,” Hilger noted about Birr, who is also her teammate on Banks’ soccer and basketball teams, and whom she described as being outgoing and hilarious. “Her jumping technique and everything she does is great.”

Having watched Hilger up close for so many years, Birr is equally enthused about her jumping mate’s abilities.

“She works so hard for it. She is just so good at it. I can’t even tell you,” Birr said. “I’m different because I start further back. She only takes like three steps to the bar. For me, I feel like that’s not enough speed to get to the bar. She does it. It blows my mind. I don’t know how she does it.”

The duo presents a formidable field event tandem for the Banks girls, who are the four-time reigning Cowapa League champions. While the high jump is both girls’ best event, they also post solid marks in the other jumps for the Lady Braves.

Despite having to compete in rainy and windy conditions — not optimal jumping weather — both girls set personal bests in the triple jump on Saturday in Tillamook, with Birr smashing her former high-water mark by 19 inches. In the high jump at that meet, Hilger cleared 5-2 to win. Birr was fourth with a 4-6 clearance, but she was several inches over the bar on all three of her tries at 4-8, Frank said, dislodging the bar with her foot all three times.

“She was a little frustrated last year, but she’s jumping very well this year — both of them are,” Frank said. “Lauren’s jumping better than I’ve ever seen her jump.”

And, Frank said, they both have upside and are capable of jumping even higher.

That is probably a good thing, as their amazing duo may turn into a trio this season. Ariel Slifka, a freshman, cleared 4-10 in Banks’ season opener before spring break to stamp herself as a potential contender in the Cowapa League.

“She’s going to be very good,” Birr said about the youngster. “We’ve got to watch out for her too, even though she’s on our team and I love her, but she’s competition too.”

Of course, given Birr and Hilger’s track record, some more friendly competition will probably be a positive thing.

After all, said Hilger: “We both just push each other so hard, and I think that’s why we do so good.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top