Rachel Khaw takes third individually at state and the Liberty boys get ninth place as a team

EUGENE — The right move at the right time.

Running Saturday in her second state cross-country meet, Rachel Khaw made exactly that, gapping her closest competition late in the race and then holding on the rest of the way to finish in third place in the girls Class 5A race at Lane Community College in Eugene.

“I felt really good at the end, and I just thought I could go faster and I did,” the diminutive sophomore said after accepting her third-place medal on the awards podium, her silver solar blanket rustling around her.

Khaw placed 10th in this race last year as a freshman, and she had been hoping for a top-five finish this time around, she HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Rachel Khaw receives her third-place medal following last Saturday's state cross-country meet in Eugene.

She did that and better, separating herself from a pack of runners at the first hill out of the duck ponds — which comes inside the last mile of the 5-kilometer course.

“My coach had told me, ‘The second time you go up the hill, step up the pace a little bit just up the hill, because that’s when you can get everyone,’” Khaw recalled.

Khaw executed her strategy to perfection, putting in enough of a gap that there was nothing but daylight between her and the next finisher as she cruised the final 300 meters on Lane’s blue track before finishing in 18 minutes, 47 seconds. That time was an improvement of 48 seconds over her mark from last year, as well as just 10 seconds slower than her best-ever time.

Khaw’s performance left her coach, David Douglas, elated — and nervous, while he was waiting for her to finish after she made her move.

“That was a big, big shocker,” he said. “We said ... might as well give it a shot and see how it goes today. She really ran well today and surprised a lot of people.”

Hannah Gindlesberger and Olivia Brooks — timed in 17:53 and 18:37, respectively — posted a 1-2 finish and led Summit to its sixth consecutive team title. The Storm easily turned back Bend city rival Mountain View, 33-81. Corvallis (93) was third and Cleveland (122) took fourth.

Actually, Khaw was the only non-Summit runner inside the top four, as Kaely Gordon was fourth in 18:54. Emma Wren of Cleveland and Sascha Bockius of Hood River Valley followed in 18:56 and 19:00, respectively. Khaw’s league rival, Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville, was seventh in 19:04. Saturday’s race was the first in either cross-country or track in which Khaw topped Rawlings in an individual race.

After her race, Khaw headed up Interstate 5 to Woodburn, where she helped the Liberty girls soccer team defeat the Bulldogs 5-1 in a Class 5A play-in game. The Falcons ended their season with a 3-0 loss at Bend on Tuesday in the first round.

The busy Khaw was not the only Falcon who ran well on Saturday. Led by Michael Francy’s 11th-place result, the boys team finished ninth with 218 points in its first-ever trip to Eugene. Summit won with 38 points, followed by Mountain View (64), Hermiston (78) and Cleveland (133).

Douglas was pleased with how his boys — all state meet rookies — handled the experience.

“They either usually do pretty well or they kind of just go off the deep end,” Douglas said about first-time qualifiers. “I think that they did really well today. I did not see a whole lot of the freaking out and nerves and stuff like that that sometimes kids get the first time they make it down here.”

Francy finished in 16:18, one second and one spot away from the awards podium. Summit’s Matthew Maton cruised to a 51-second victory over Hermiston’s Jose Macias in 14:59.

Dominick Marshall ran in the Falcons’ No. 2 spot, finishing 40th in 17:03, a personal-best time. He was followed by Austin Finster (61st, 17:34), Jonathan Fookes (64th, 17:39) and Jack Stemm (78th, 18:07) to complete the Falcons’ scoring. Alex Dickinson (84th, 18:18) and Jacob Espinosa (90th, 18:54) also competed for Liberty.

“Last year during track, I went as an alternate for the 4x4, and it was really fun,” Marshall said. “This year I really wanted to go back, because state was so much fun, and having these guys to hang out with is just great because they’re basically my family at this time in the season.”

Finster had a great perspective, noting how far the Falcons have come in just two years.

“We started as freshmen and we were tied for last in our conference,” Finster said about himself, Marshall, Fookes and Dickinson. “And to come all the way up to state by junior year, it feels great to have worked this hard and gotten here.”

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