Liberty's NWOC dual meet against Wilsonville isn't decided until the final two events of the afternoon

Liberty experienced the rush of victory and the disappointment of defeat all in the span of about five minutes last HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Liberty junior Sarah Martinez pulls away from the pack for a convincing victory in the 400 meters at last Wednesday's Northwest Oregon Conference dual meet against Wilsonville.

Playing host to perennial conference contender Wilsonville in a Northwest Oregon Conference dual meet, the Falcons got a meet-clinching victory in the girls 4x400-meter relay in a 75-66 win before landing on the other side of the coin in a hotly contested boys long relay just a few minutes later to fall 73-72 to the Wildcats.

In such a competitive meet, Liberty coach Perry Beeler found a lot to like, even with the split on the scoreboard.

“I’m ecstatic,” Beeler said after the meet. “Winning is cool. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to win, but what I’m most happy with is the effort that these kids gave me.

“I saw so many kids give me that extra inch in a jump or a throw, give me that extra fraction of a second in a race, whether it was a 100 or a 3,000 or somewhere in between. They just all stepped up. It was a great, great day.”

On a day when Liberty recorded numerous standout performances, Elizabeth Pecsok stood out. The versatile junior contributed a considerable 18 points toward the Falcons girls’ cause with three wins — in the high jump, 100 hurdles and shot put — and a second-place finish in the triple jump.

Pecsok started her day in fine fashion in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 5 inches to set a new school record. She threw 32-7½ to win the shot put and ran to a season-best of 16.34 in the high hurdles before finishing second in a crucial Liberty sweep of the triple jump late in the meet.

In that event, which Beeler said “kind of pushed us over the top,” Tiana Dolson won with a personal-best leap of 33-6¼, Pecsok went 33-5 — an improvement of more than four feet from when she contested the event for the first time two weeks earlier — and Hannah Langbehn finished third with a mark of 32-10.

“It was kind of just me doing what I do, because I knew, looking at the other competitors’ PRs and stuff, as long as I have ... a normal day, that I would be winning my events,” Pecsok said about her performance. “The most nerve-wracking for me was the triple jump just because I’m so new at it.”

Sarah Martinez also had a big meet for Liberty, racing to wins and personal records in the 400 (59.90) and 200 (26.94), and running the leadoff leg of the long relay (4:14.26), which included Rachel Khaw, Langbehn and Simone Wilson. Martinez dominated the 400 field, prevailing by more than four seconds and going sub-60 for the first time.

“I felt like I got out really good and ... on the backstretch I felt like I coasted really well, and then I felt like I kicked it at the end as best I could,” Martinez said of the one-lap event.

Other event winners for the Liberty girls were Alina Munoz Licea in the 300 hurdles (51.88), Dolson in the long jump (15-1¾), and Khaw in the 3,000 (10:53.09). Khaw also finished second to 2012 Class 5A 800 meter state champion Taryn Rawlings in the 1,500 in 4:58.51. The standout Liberty freshman set school records in both events.

On the boys’ side, the Falcons came within a split-second of winning the 4x400 and thus the meet. In that race, James Marshall, Austin Finster and Josh Cole gave Matthew Langbehn a small lead going into the anchor leg. But Wilsonville’s Ryan Walsh, who had won the 400 earlier in the afternoon, was able to overtake Langbehn in the homestretch to win the event (3:33.60) and seal the meet for the Wildcats. Liberty finished in 3:34.19.

Even in defeat, there was a lot to like, as the Liberty boys recorded a slew of top-notch performances.

Similar to Khaw for the girls team, Michael Francy cruised to victory in the 3,000 (9:17.63), took third place in the 1,500 (4:17.11) and set school records in both races.

“He just has two speeds: go and stop,” Liberty distance coach Jennifer Kulle-Jones said. “That’s Michael.”

Jon Horn’s big day came in the throws. The junior broke his own school record to win the discus (127-8), and he was second in the shot put (44-3) and the javelin (164-10).

“It was more of a PR day that I was aiming for rather than placing, but definitely wanted to be no less than second because of points,” Horn said about his expectations for the meet.

Phillip Opager also did some heavy lifting in the field events, notching victories in all three jumps, going 6-0 in the high jump, 39-1¾ in the triple jump and 19-11 in the long jump. Nick Bonat also was a three-time winner for Liberty. He took top honors in the high hurdles (16.13) and the intermediates (42.35), and he also picked up a victory with Cole, Langbehn and Spencer Brown in the 4x100 relay (46.80).

On Friday, the success continued for the Falcons, who traveled to Portland for the 25th Annual Wilson Invitational. Both the boys and girls squads took second place in the six-team meet, and both to Columbia River. The Liberty boys scored 97 points to Colombia River’s 111, while the Falcons girls notched 105 points to 117 for the Chieftains of Vancouver, Wash.

As she did against the Wildcats, Pecsok led the way at the invite. She won the high jump and matched her personal best and school record of 5-5 set two days earlier. She also took first place in the 100 hurdles in 16.77 and added a third-place result in the shot put (32-10).

After a second-place finish in the 1,500 to re-break her school record (4:49.84), Khaw doubled back in the 800 for a win and yet another school standard (2:23.32). In the long relay, Khaw, Martinez, Langbehn and Wilson accounted for the Falcon girls’ other victory in the meet (4:15.28).

Runners-up included Beeler in the 100 (13.65), and Martinez in the 200 (27.47) and 400 (59.65). Dolson in the triple jump (33-4), Wilson in the javelin (104-3), and the short relay quartet of Langbehn, Beeler, Dolson and Martinez (51.11) tallied third-place finishes.

Cole was a two-time winner for the Falcons boys, in the 400 (52.10) and as a member of the 4x400 relay with Finster, Francy and Matthew Langbehn (3:34.88). Cole also finished second in the 200 (23.74). Horn accounted for the squad’s other win, in the javelin (151-2), and he also took sixth place in the discus (124-6).

Other top-three finishers were Francy in the 1,500 (second, 4:17.05), Langbehn in the 400 (third, 53.83), Finster in the 800 (third, 2:01.52), Bonat in the high hurdles (third, 16.71) and the intermediates (third, 43.97), Opager in the high jump (third, 6-0), and Matt Schramm, Chase Strode, Alex Richardson and Jose Ramirez Mendez in the 4x800 relay (third, 9:17.31).

Liberty resumed NWOC dual meet action on Wednesday with a competition at Milwaukie (after press deadline). The Falcons, along with the rest of the Hillsboro schools, are scheduled to compete today in the Elden Kellar Invitational at Hare Field. Field events begin at 4 p.m., while the first race on the track goes off at 5:35 p.m.

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