Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski, Alyssa Villalobos earn top-six finishes at state for Forest Grove

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove senior Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski leads the pack during the boys 1,500 meters on Saturday.EUGENE — So close and yet so far.

Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski’s strategy of taking out the boys 1,500-meter race at a breakneck pace during the Class 6A track and field state championships almost worked out perfectly.

That’s because the Forest Grove senior distance ace quickly gapped almost all of the field on the Hayward Field oval, building up a sizeable lead that he maintained well into the last lap.

But his pace slowed over the final 300 meters, allowing Jesuit’s Michael Godbout — the only runner to stick even close most of the way — to reel him in and then catch him in the final straight. Roseburg’s Kenny Freeman blistered the final lap and also edged him right before the finish line, forcing Lizier-Zmudzinski to settle for third place.

“I just thought I would make it hurt instantly, and I hit all my splits just like I wanted to,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said. “The plan was to ... try to go 60-61-62 (seconds on the first three laps), which is exactly what I did, so I was pleased about that. I just thought I would have more left the last 300.”

Godbout passed him midway through the final 100 to claim his first state title in 3 minutes, 52.72 seconds — the fastest 6A winning time since Lake Oswego’s Elijah Greer ran 3:50.56 in 2009 — and Freeman finished in 3:54.66. Both boys set personal records.

Lizier-Zmudzinski came home in 3:55.03, a season-best time.

The outcome, coupled with a 14th-place finish as a member of the Vikings’ 4x400-meter relay, capped an illustrious and yet challenging high school career for the Vikings standout, who is bound for Georgetown in the fall.

Lizier-Zmudzinski was one of the breakout stars of the 2012 state track meet, capturing the 1,500 title as a precocious sophomore while setting a state class record — a time of 3:53.75 that remains his personal best.

But in the intervening years, Lizier-Zmudzinski’s running career has been beset by injuries that derailed his training and caused him to question his talent. Even this year, his training has been less than optimal.

He ran just 180 miles over the winter due to problematic IT bands, he said, and he has only been training seriously for about four weeks after a trip to the emergency room.

“I think the lack of base really showed. If I had more base, I would have been able to hold on, and that’s kind of disappointing — just not having the training necessary to do what I was trying to do today,” said Lizier-Zmudzinski, who plans to keep training and do some racing this summer.

“But I’m proud of the fact that I went for it.”

While perhaps not the outcome Lizier-Zmudzinski had dreamed, that performance was one of two unquestionable highlights for Forest Grove at the meet. The other was Alyssa Villalobos’ sixth-place finish in the girls long jump.

A year ago, the talented sophomore was a little unnerved by the state meet atmosphere. After having qualified for the meet as a wildcard, she took 14th place — last in the field.

Watching other athletes receive their medals on the awards podium, she decided she wanted one of her own, so she set a goal to return and earn a top-eight finish.

Villalobos made good on that goal Friday, when she jumped 16 feet, 10½ inches on her first attempt to rank seventh among the nine finalists. Then, on her second of three attempts in the finals, she popped a mark of 17-2 to improve to sixth. Last year’s runner-up, Danelle Woodcock of Barlow, won the event with a 19-0 jump.

“To be able to do that and fulfill that goal is pretty awesome,” said Villalobos, who also qualified this year as a wildcard. “It just shows how all the work that I put in just paid off. It was amazing, actually.”

A state qualifier in two events, Villalobos also finished 14th in the 300-meter hurdles (49.31).

“Being able to run on the track, it’s way different than long jumping,” Villalobos said. “You get more nervous, and just seeing everybody looking at you ... is a different feeling than you get when you’re long jumping, because it’s like a one-shot thing. You make it or you don’t.”

For the Forest Grove boys, Tate de Sully added a 10th-place result in the shot put (47-9¼), and Seth Berdahl took 11th in the 3,000 (8:57.68). The long relay team of Duncan Stewart, Dylan Richmond, Lizier-Zmudzinski and Ricky Torres finished in 3:31.61.

Lizier-Zmudzinski’s six points for the 1,500 put the Vikings in a tie for 28th place in the overall standings. Godbout’s Crusaders rolled to the team title with 97 points.

On the girls’ side, Rubi Vergara-Grindell also represented Forest Grove, finishing 12th in the 3,000 with a time of 10:55.97.

Forest Grove tied for 32nd place with three points. Central Catholic edged Grant 54-53 for its first girls track and field title.

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