Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski captures a state title in the 1,500 meters
by: Miles Vance, Forest Grove sophomore Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski raises his arms in celebration as he crosses the finish line at Hayward Field on Saturday.

EUGENE - The rise to the top of the Oregon high school middle distance ranks has been meteoric for Forest Grove's Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski.

On Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, in just his second year in the sport, the sophomore captured the Class 6A boys 1,500 meters state championship with a heady, measured effort that belied his age and experience. Running down Sheldon junior Jackson Darland on the last lap, Lizier-Zmudzinski finished in 3 minutes, 53.75 seconds, a personal-best time by almost three seconds.

'It's a sweet thing to win a title,' he said a few days later, trying to explain his emotions. 'It's not like a super joyous feeling where I'm just jumping up and down. It's this thing that's more subtle. It's like this joy that's just not going away.'

With the victory, Lizier-Zmudzinski became the eighth Viking in school history to win a state track championship and just the second to prevail in a running event. Francis Schultz swept the 100- and 220-yard dashes in 1938.

If Lizier-Zmudzinski's winning time seems fast, that's because it is. It ranks as the top mark in the state this year among all classifications. And shortly after the race ended, the public address announcer at Hayward Field said that Lizier-Zmudzinski had broken the state sophomore class record, which is listed as 3:55.15, set by Junction City's Billy Harper in 1994. (Lizier-Zmudzinski said that a reporter told him after the race that another sophomore had once run 3:54.02. No matter which time is correct, Lizier-Zmudzinski has topped it).

Lizier-Zmudzinski's winning time was an accurate prediction of his abilities as, he said, he felt a mark under 3:54 and as low as 3:52 was realistic. Of Darland, who set the pace for much of the race, he thought: 'If he's ... willing and ready to be able to go under that, then so be it. I have to stick to my own race because that's the only way I'm going to win. I can't chase him.'

For much of the race, it appeared as if Darland might do just that. After moving to the front about 300 meters into the race, Darland stretched his advantage over Lizier-Zmudzinski - who ran in second most of the way - to as much as about 20 meters.

But in the last lap, he could not maintain his pace, and Lizier-Zmudzinski's patience paid off. In the penultimate 200 meters, Lizier-Zmudzinski closed that deficit to within just a few meters. During the final turn, he sat just off Darland's right shoulder. Entering the homestretch, he swung wide, easily passing Darland, who could not respond. Well clear of the rest of the field at the tape, Lizier-Zmudzinski held his arms outstretched and smiled.

'Just watching him run, it was a perfect race,' Forest Grove coach Scott McCahon said. 'He ran it well.'

Undoubtedly, Lizier-Zmudzinski's victory was the high point of the weekend for Forest Grove, which sent three boys to the state meet. Appearing in his first state track meet, senior Tyler Shipley took 14th in the 3,000 in 9:27.06. Another senior, James McCahon, was 14th in the 300-meter hurdles preliminaries in 43.42.

'Really, all three of these kids we took had injuries through the year,' Scott McCahon noted. 'And to watch them press on and keep moving and to get where they got was unbelievable.'

In fact, an injury in Friday's preliminaries spoiled James McCahon's prospects of a return to the intermediate hurdles final. He finished sixth in 2011.

'He was ready,' Scott McCahon said. 'When he went to move, the hamstring wouldn't let him go. It shows you how fragile state championships are, especially in track and field. You have to be ... healthy, 100 percent, ready to go on that day at that time. And you don't get another chance, and you don't have anybody to help you.'

Lizier-Zmudzinski added an eighth-place finish in Saturday's 800-meter final, bringing Forest Grove's point total for the meet to 11, good for a tie with Roseburg for 22nd place.

For Banks, Amy Hilger and Annie Victor both found their way onto the medal stand in the Class 4A girls meet. Hilger finished third in the high jump with a clearance of 5 feet, finishing behind Elizabeth Venzon of Hidden Valley (5-4) and Laura Sullivan of Madras (5-0), who earned second based on fewer misses than Hilger.

'She caught her foot on the bar on her third jump that would have allowed her to move forward and take second place,' Banks coach Tony Cicoria said of Hilger's final set of jumps. 'It is what it is. She got third in the high jump, and that's really good.'

Victor threw a series-best 106-11 on her fourth throw in the discus competition to match her finish at state from 2011. Gladstone junior D'Onna Robinson, the defending champion, recorded four fouls but still won with a toss of 135-06.

'She didn't feel all that comfortable in the ring,' Cicoria noted of Victor. 'It was pretty obvious that she didn't feel very comfortable in the ring, and she still managed to get into the finals and get on the podium.'

Hilger and Victor, both sophomores, combined to score 10 points for the Lady Braves, who finished 20th as a team.

Other Banks participants were Lauren Birr, who tied for ninth in the high jump; Kindel Bailey and Ashley Edwards, who finished 13th and 14th in the javelin, respectively; Jennifer Hilger, who took 15th place in the long jump; and Tim Cutone, who was 12th in the boys javelin.

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