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Liberty's girls turn in their best-ever performance with a fifth-place finish at the Class 5A state track meet


That is how last week’s Class 5A state track and field meet turned out for the Liberty girls.

Thanks to strong performances across the board, the Falcons soared to fifth place in the team standings for their best-ever result at the meet, which was staged Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.

Summit of Bend scored 81½ points to win its seventh consecutive state championship. Marshfield was second with 67, followed by Corvallis (50), Hermiston (47) and then the Falcons (35).

Prior to this season, the best finish by a Liberty girls team had been a tie for seventh place with 33 points in 2009. The Falcons also placed eighth in both 2008 and 2010.

“They’ve been a team this whole time,” Liberty coach Perry Beeler said Saturday afternoon. “Down here, everything they’ve done, they’ve done together, whether it’s warming up, whether it’s cheering each other on, going to dinner, hanging out — they enjoy each other.

“They feed off that energy. They’re competing not just for themselves, but for each other. They know that if they do well, then we do well. And I think that speaks volumes about the quality of kids that we have.”

In fact, Liberty was so consistently good last weekend that every single Falcon — including the boys — who participated in the meet walked away with at least one medal, earned by a top-eight finish.

“We have really stepped it up this year,” an ebullient Sarah Martinez said at the conclusion of the meet, all four of the medals she had earned draped around her neck. “And I hope people understand that next year, when they see that they’re going to go against us, that they’re scared, because they should be scared because we’re awesome.”

Rachel Khaw helped the Falcons’ cause and capped her standout freshman season with two individual medals in the distance races. On Friday, after running a good stretch of the 3,000 meters with fellow Northwest Oregon Conference qualifier Sasha Gonzalez, Khaw finished sixth in a personal-best time 10 minutes, 37.20 seconds. Summit freshman Hannah Gindelsperger won the race in 10:09.79.

On Saturday, Khaw was even better in a 1,500 race that set up well for her by going out somewhat tactically. Khaw kicked hard over the final lap to finish third in 4:50.74. No one in the field could match the closing speed of league rival Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville, who won in 4:46.97.

“She gutted it out,” Beeler said about Khaw. “She had to fight somebody off and try and catch somebody, and she managed to pull it off. I think she ran a great race, a very intelligent race.”

But it was not just Khaw who had a couple of good days. Liberty had plenty of success to go around.

Multi-event standout Eli Pecsok took fourth in the 100 hurdles in 15.69 — topping the personal best of 15.70 that she ran in the preliminaries — and she was fifth in the high jump with a clearance of 5 feet, 2 inches. Marshfield’s Lauren McGowne won the hurdles in 15.29, while West Albany’s Rachel Proteau set the all-time state record in the high jump with a leap of 6-1.

“I wasn’t very happy with my finals race just because I hit the last three hurdles, so that was kind of a bummer, but I PRed, so it was good,” said Pecsok, who improved upon a seventh-place finish in that event last year and matched her high jump placement from 2012.

Junior Ashley Martin placed fourth in the 100, her first individual final at the state meet. The junior was timed in 12.77 in the race, won by Marshfield’s Madelyn Metzler in 12.47. Martin also anchored Liberty’s 4x100 relay team —including Hannah Langbehn, Shay Serres and Martinez — which was sixth in 50.45 behind Summit (48.88).

Martinez proved to be quite the workhorse for the Falcons throughout the meet. The junior ran two preliminary races in individual events on Friday and then in four finals on Saturday. She took fifth place in the 400 in a personal-best time of 58.32, finally breaking the school record she had been chasing all season and improving upon her eighth-place result in 2012. Corvallis senior Malika Waschmann won her second title in that event in 56.50.

In the 200 final, Martinez set her second PR in as many days. Her time of 26.32, good for sixth place, tied Liberty’s school record. Jestena Mattson of Hood River Valley won in 25.20. Martinez capped her meet by leading off Liberty’s seventh-place 4x400 squad, which broke yet another school record in 4:06.87. Khaw, Simone Wilson and Langbehn ran the other legs on that team.

For the Liberty boys, the long relay quartet of Matthew Langbehn, Michael Francy, James Marshall and Josh Cole finished sixth in 3:28.22 behind Sherwood (3:24.78). On Friday, Cole took ninth place in the 400 preliminaries in 51.81.

The three points from the relay slotted Liberty into a tie for 27th in the team standings. Summit won with 78 points. Marist of Eugene was second with 64, Springfield was third (42), and Hermiston and Sherwood tied for fourth (41).

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