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Big Sky homecoming

Former Forest Grove standout Kristi VandeBergh gets an unexpected chance to compete in her hometown


Third place? Fourth place? Third place. Fourth place.

In the end, it was a third-place finish for Forest Grove High School grad Kristi VandeBergh. And sometimes one place can mean everything.

“I thought I got fourth, and the thing is, I’m always wanting more,” the Montana State sophomore said on Friday. “I’m never satisfied.”by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Former Forest Grove shot putter Kristi VandeBergh, now competing for Montana State, shares a light moment with friends and family during the Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which were held at Lincoln Park Stadium last weekend.

VandeBergh returned to her hometown last week to compete in shot put and discus at the 2013 Big Sky Conference Track and Field Championships, hosted by Portland State at Lincoln Park Stadium in Forest Grove. And while she did not win the shot put, which is her specialty, she did wind up with the better of two possible outcomes.

After competing in the finals of the women’s shot put competition on Friday, VandeBergh was unsure of her ultimate placement. The event official left the competition area before she could ask, and there was a lack of consensus among the members of her considerable cheering squad.

So she had to wait and find out like everyone else in the stadium — when the public address announcer reported the results over the stadium intercom. VandeBergh had placed third with a throw of 14.57 meters (or 48 feet, 9¼ inches), finishing behind Northern Arizona’s Jessica Weise (49-11¾) and Sacramento State’s Erinn Jones (48-2¾).

One place might not seem like a lot, but in track and field, one place can make all the difference in the world — something VandeBergh knows about through personal experience.

The 2011 Forest Grove graduate qualified for the Class 6A state track meet three times in high school in the shot put. In her first two trips to Eugene, she took ninth place — the first spot off the awards podium — before finally breaking through with a third-place result as a senior. And at last year’s outdoor conference championships in Bozeman, Mont., VandeBergh finished fourth, again the first competitor off the podium.

“That’s how it was last outdoor championships,” VandeBergh recalled. “Got fourth, and I’m like, ‘No! It’s all over again!’”

But not this year for VandeBergh, who has added about six feet to her shot put personal best since graduating high school. This time around, her best throw was just inches short of her personal best, and she nabbed a bronze medal, a spot on the awards stand and all-conference honors.

“The thing that I saw today is I was a lot more consistent,” said VandeBergh, who added a 16th-place finish in the discus on Saturday. “This year, a lot of it has been ... I’ll hit a big one, but the rest are kind of disappointing. So I was pretty consistent today, which I was happy with.”

VandeBergh could well have enjoyed one of the most sizeable cheering sections aside from coaches and teammates of any athlete at the meet. Her parents, Kenneth and Rhonda, were in attendance, as were twin sister, Keri, her grandfather and several other relatives and friends. Even her throws and basketball coach from her Forest Grove days, Dan Lumpkin, came out to supply encouragement.

“He’s impressed,” VandeBergh said. “He’s proud of me, and I’m so happy he took time out of his day to come watch me.”

Competing in her hometown made VandeBergh’s performance that much more special. It was an unlikely prospect when VandeBergh initially left for school in Bozeman. Portland State is the only Big Sky member school in Oregon, and the school does not have its own track and field facility. In fact, the Vikings had never hosted a meet of their own until last weekend, after a push by Portland State coach Ronnye Harrison.

“There’s no way I could have seen that coming,” VandeBergh said. “I knew that Portland State was hosting, and I knew that people from Forest Grove would be willing to travel and see me and cheer me on, but I had no clue it was going to be here until a couple months ago and I was stoked.”

After the shot put, Rhonda Vandebergh also was tickled at her daughter’s success — and in getting to watch it at home.

“Knowing that she’s not probably going to get to come back here to compete again, it’s very nice that she’s on the podium for her last time at home,” she said.

As for Kristi Vandebergh, she said she plans to use this summer to prep for even bigger and better performances.

“I tell you what, I’m going to get nerdy about it this summer,” VandeBergh said. “I’m really into it right now. I’m staying most of the summer in Bozeman. I’m going to be working out every day and just try to get that 50(-foot throw) and once I hit that, I’m just going to go for the school record.” (MSU’s school records in the women’s shot put are 50-2 outdoors and 51-3¾ indoors.)

Because third is good, but first would be even better.

“I’m elated, but it’s not enough,” VandeBergh said. “It’s not enough. I want the top of the podium.”




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