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Team effort

The Lakeridge girls capture the schools first team state title in track and field while the Pacers Julian Heninger and the Lakers Connor Bracken win individual titles


by: LYNDA O'NEILL - Members and coaches of the Lakeridge track team stand with their state championship trophy on the podium at Hayward Field last Saturday.Track state championships can come about in a wide variety of ways. Often one or two individuals will dominate multiple events to pad a team's point totals which can make the team trophy somewhat hollow.

But what the Lakeridge girls did over the course of two days in Eugene, was the epitome of a team effort. The Pacers didn't have a state champion in the competition but scored points in 11 different events, getting contributions from eight different individuals for a total of 48.5 points.

That total was enough to grant Lakeridge the title against a very crowded field but nothing was clinched until the final event of the day on Saturday.

“We knew we had a shot at finishing in the top-five heading into it but to win a state track meet, you sometimes need some luck,” coach Ken James said.

Lakeridge held a slim one-point lead over Jesuit and trailed Barlow by half a point with just the 4x400 remaining.

Neither Barlow nor Sunset, who was also in contention, had a team in the event meaning the Pacers just had to post one of the eight fastest times in the two-heat field and stay in front of Jesuit.

Lakeridge did just that, starting out fast with good legs from Sydney Lautze and Kelly O'Neill. Jesuit stayed within striking distance but when Saskia McNairy handed off to Madi Greenleaf, the Pacer senior, who had already competed in three events on the day, distanced herself from the Crusaders' anchor leg and the Pacers took sixth place in 3:56.20 seconds.

“Our coaches told us we needed to finish seventh to win state and, at that point, we just knew we had to get it done. The whole goal was to stay ahead of Jesuit and not let them gain. When I handed it to Madi I knew she's bring it home. It's just mind-blowing right now. I've never been so happy,” McNairy said.

Greenleaf was one of the Pacers' biggest stars at the meet. She, along with Lautze, Ranya Al-Khaledy and Marissa Miller, helped Lakeridge to a terrific time of 48.76 seconds in the 4x100 relay, good enough for sixth place to get the meet started right.

In her first individual race, the 100 hurdles, Greenleaf got out of the blocks well but was trailing Hillsboro's Anna Dean slightly midway through the race. Greenleaf steadily made up ground over the final few hurdles and hit the line in a photo finish with a time of 14.65 seconds, just one hundredth of a second behind Dean for second place.

“I gave it my all. I knew I was gaining but I felt just a little behind when I crossed the line,” Greenleaf said.

In the 300 hurdles, Greenleaf was near the front of the pack again early. She closed a late gap against North Medford's Halley Folsom and scored another second-place finish in 44.46 seconds.

In O'Neill's final high school event, the prolific distance runner had the second-fastest time in the prelims and took fifth in a fast final with a nearly identical mark.

Later on in the meet, O'Neill got on the podium again with an eighth place showing in the 1500.

In the field, Lakeridge freshman Maddie Rabing had a strong showing. She threw 40'3.75” in the shot put and took second place behind Gresham standout Haley Crouser.

Rabing would also take seventh in the discus with a throw of 115 feet.

McNairy also placed in multiple events. In the long jump, she set a PR with a leap of 17'9.5” which was good enough for third place.

She followed that with a lead of 36'4” in the triple jump, bettering her top mark from districts and taking sixth place.

Also scoring in the field was Lakeridge's Nicole Kangas who cleared 10 feet event and finished in sixth.

“We scored points in every event we were qualified in and both relay teams set school records,” James said.

When added up, Lakeridge's points were just enough to earn the team its first ever state championship in girls track.

In the boys meet, the competition was highlighted by a pair of individual state championship performances.

Lakeridge's Julian Heninger entered the meet on a mission after coming up one hundredth of a second short in the 3000 last year.

When this year's race started on Friday, Heninger quickly got a good feeling about how things would turn out.

“Everyone knows I like to kick and finish fast so I was surprised when the race started out so slowly,” Heninger said.

Heninger stayed near the front of the pack and when he started to make his move, he was confident that he had enough in the tank to pull out a coveted state title.

Central Catholic's Kyle Thompson led on the backstretch but Heninger closed quickly, passing him and crossing the line in 8:36.38 for the victory.

“When I made the move I thought I had it. You have to be confident when you go for it,” Heninger said.

On Saturday, Heninger an in the 1500 and nearly won his second state title. Again Heninger bided his time but, in this race, Sheldon's Jackson Darland bolted out to a large lead. Heninger made another late charge but Darland had just enough to win by one second while Heninger took second place.

“He went early and it was a really gutsy move. I thought I could catch him but he held it and there was just too much distance,” Heninger said.

In the 110 hurdles, Lake Oswego's Connor Bracken finished in a tie for the fastest time in the prelims.

In the finals, he ran a near flawless race, maintaining a slim lead practically from start to finish and winning by five hundredths of a second in 14.7.

“It was good to get the nerves out by running the 4x100. I clipped one hurdle which hurt my time a little. I didn't know I had it until the very end,” Bracken said.

Lake Oswego's Mason Collett had another strong state meet, clearing 6'3” and taking fifth place.

Lakeridge's Micah Bartell also notched a top-five finish with a tremendous leap in the triple jump of over 44'9”, good enough for fourth place.

For the Lake Oswego girls, Marissa Taylor cleared the bar at 10'3” and took third place in the pole vault. Erika Treske cleared 5'2” in the high jump and finished in sixth.




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