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Liberty freshman continues assault on school record book

At least when it comes to times, Rachel Khaw already is the best female distance runner Liberty has ever had.

Over the span of three days last week, she accomplished what many prep runners would chalk up as a fine career.

In a dual meet against Wilsonville last Wednesday, the petite, dark-haired and dark-eyed runner set school records in the 1,500 meters and the 3,000. Two days later at the Wilson Invitational in Portland, she set yet another school standard in the 800, running the event for the first time in high school. And she broke her 1,500 record again for good measure.

“She’s up there. I mean, she is there,” Falcons distance coach Jennifer Kulle-Jones said last week. “We haven’t had anybody that fast.”

As impressive as all that is, it could be just the beginning for Khaw, who is a freshman. This track season, she has been building on last fall’s solid cross country campaign. Last November, she took 10th place in the Class 5A state meet and led her Falcons to a 10th-place team finish in their first-ever appearance in Eugene.

“I was hoping to get in the top 10, so I did get 10th,” the soft-spoken and understated Khaw said last week on the day between Liberty’s meets.

Khaw, who is expected to run the 1,500 today in the Elden Kellar Invitational at Hare Field, stands out in running, though it is not her primary sport nor her favorite — that honor belongs to soccer.

So far in high school, she has been able to balance both activities well. In the fall, high school soccer took priority, though cross country meets and games did not conflict, and she met up with Liberty cross country coach David Douglas two or three times per week for early-morning workouts. This spring, she leaves track practices early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for club soccer practices in Portland, and she did miss a Saturday invitational a few weeks ago because of a soccer game.

“The key is now, just can she maintain it with the number of activities she’s doing?” Kulle-Jones said. “Kids have done it for years.”

Khaw, who is a home school student, began running cross country at age 9 to tag along with two older siblings. She also ran two years of track in middle school through the Catholic Youth Organization. Even then, she was fast — she broke 5 minutes in the 1,500 in middle school, she said.

“It’s just natural,” Khaw said, with both modesty and candor, about her ability.

Her coach likely would agree.

“I think one of the things that makes her so great is that she’s so efficient,” Kulle-Jones explained. “You don’t see kids that young that have just such efficient form that you could set something ... on top of her head, and she wouldn’t hit it.”

That efficiency was on full display in that dual meet against the Wildcats. Khaw finished a close second in the 1,500 to Taryn Rawlings, the 2012 Class 5A 800-meter state champion, in a time of 4 minutes, 58.51 seconds. In the 3,000, she tucked behind a male teammate — boys and girls usually run the 3,000 together in duals — for most of the race before kicking home in 10:53.09, the first time she has broken 11 minutes.

That teammate has become something of a de facto pacesetter for Khaw, who said she also raced behind him earlier this season.

“I just run behind him. I don’t think he even knows me very well,” she said with a bit of a giggle.

At the Wilson Invite last Friday, Khaw sliced almost nine seconds off her 1,500 best, finishing second in 4:49.84 to Union’s Alexis Fuller. She came back to win the 800, an event she had been wanting to try, in 2:23.32. Heading into Wednesday’s dual meet at Milwaukie, Khaw was second behind Rawlings in the NWOC 1,500 and 800 standings, and she led the 3,000 list, though she admitted that race is not her favorite.

“I don’t really like the 3,000. It’s just so long,” she laughed. “Seven-and-a-half laps of just running in circles.”

But perhaps she will grow to like it one day. She does run it so well, and with three years of high school to go, she has time.



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