Falcons qualify three relay teams and six individuals for the Class 5A track and field state championships

Not a bad two days’ work.

Competing in the Northwest Oregon Conference district track and field meet last week, Liberty showed its quality, advancing six individuals and three relay teams to this week’s Class 5A state meet in Eugene.

In a demonstration of their big-meet capabilities, the Liberty girls finished second in the district competition, staged last Thursday and Friday at Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie.

The Falcons scored 125½ points, just edging Wilsonville (122½) for runner-up honors. Sherwood won the meet with 148½ points. On the boys side, Wilsonville cruised to the district title with 156 points, ahead of Sherwood (107), Milwaukie (105) and St. Helens (85). The Liberty boys were fifth with 80 points.

“We made a good run. They didn’t beat us by much,” Liberty coach Perry Beeler said about the Sherwood girls. “I was pleased with how hard all the kids worked and how all of them did.”

Much as they have all season, Eli Pecsok, Rachel Khaw and Sarah Martinez led the way for the Liberty ladies at the meet.

Pecsok repeated as champion in the high jump and 100-meter hurdles, and Khaw continued her record-setting streak with her winning effort in the 3,000 meters. She also was second in the 1,500 and ran a leg on the Falcons’ victorious 4x400 relay. Martinez also ran on that long relay and qualified in the 200, 400 and as a member of the 4x100 relay squad.

On Thursday in the 3,000, Khaw, Liberty’s budding distance star, finished in a personal-best and school-record time of 10 minutes, 42.25 seconds after putting away Milwaukie’s Sasha Gonzalez — her running mate for most of the race — on the last lap.

“I was just hoping to get first or second, because I knew Sasha was here today,” Khaw said. “I was just going run behind her, hopefully be able to outkick her.”

And outkick her is exactly what Khaw did, making her decisive move past Gonzalez with about 200 meters remaining. The next day, she pushed Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville, the Class 5A 800 meters state champion in 2012, to the limit in the 1,500, finishing second in 4:49.51 to Rawlings’ 4:49.01 for her second state berth. And along with Martinez, Simone Wilson and Hannah Langbehn, she capped the meet with a relay win in the 4x400, in a school record time of 4:07.85.

Also on Thursday, Pecsok had a bit of an off day in the high jump, clearing 4 feet, 10 inches, on her first attempt but no other heights after that. But that clearance — on a cool and sometimes soggy afternoon — was enough to earn her the win on tiebreaking measures.

Pecsok, who has cleared 5-5 this season, was fifth in the event at the 2012 state meet. On Friday, she won the high hurdles by three-quarters of a second in 15.90 and just missed state berths in two other events with a third-place finish in the triple jump (34-10) and a fourth in the shot put (33-4½).

“In my hurdles final, I was really surprised at my time, because I was not feeling very fast at all,” Pecsok said. “So hopefully at state I’ll be able to really get into the mid-15s.”

Martinez finished second to Sherwood’s Jessica Imbrie in both the 400 (58.64) and 200 (26.65). Both of her times were personal bests. In the short relay, she, Shay Serres, Ashley Martin and Langbehn were a narrow second, finishing in 50.00 to Wilsonville’s 49.85.

Martin added a district title in the 100 in a personal best of 12.65, while Serres provided one of Liberty’s biggest breakthroughs with a runner-up result in the 300 hurdles. Serres was seeded ninth heading into the meet, but she ran a nearly two-second PR in the finals, coming home in 50.05 to nab second place behind Sherwood’s Alexis Imbler (49.65). Serres also stepped up to run her leg on that short relay, filling in for an injured MacKenzie Beeler.

“She realized that those other three girls were counting on her, and she’s worked really, really hard ... to get there, and I’m not sure she even expected to make the finals of the 300 hurdles,” said Perry Beeler, this year’s NWOC girls coach of the year. “She was on the bubble. When race time came, she left it all out there. She didn’t even believe it. When they announced her name, she goes, ‘Did they announce names in reverse order?’”

For the boys team, Matthew Langbehn, Michael Francy, James Marshall and Josh Cole placed second in the long relay in 3:26.93, yet another school record, behind Sherwood’s 3:25.59.

“Let’s just say that the race lived up to its billing,” said Beeler, as Liberty, Sherwood and Sandy possessed the three fastest times in Class 5A coming into the meet. “It was a very exciting race. They gutted it out. Our last two legs ran 50-second splits, and that’s what it took to pull it out.”

And though Cole placed third in his specialty, the 400, he also will contest that event at state. The NWOC runner-up, Wilsonville’s Ryan Walsh, elected not to run that event this week, allowing Cole to take his spot. Cole ran a season best of 51.10 in the league final.

Also of note, though he did not qualify for state this year, Jon Horn produced a solid showing in all three throwing events. On Thursday, the junior took fourth with a school-record toss of 136-0 in the discus before matching that placement and producing another school standard of 46-9¾ in the shot put, two spots ahead of sophomore teammate Byron Greenlee (46-0½). The following day, Horn finished third in the javelin in 175-3, missing the state automatic qualifying standard by less than three feet.

The Class 5A state meet kicks off today at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus with finals in some field events and the 3,000, as well as preliminaries in most running events. The meet concludes Saturday.

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