Liberty track squad will be bolstered by a talented group of sprinters and jumpers

By any and all regards, last season was a successful one for the Liberty track and field program.

The boys team took third place in duals and fifth at the district meet before landing its long relay squad on the podium at the state meet. And the girls were even better, finishing second at the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet before taking fifth place in Class 5A at state, a program high and one spot off the podium.

Thanks to the presence of a number of key returnees, this year is shaping into another good one.

“They’ve been working really hard,” coach Perry Beeler said about this year’s Falcons. “They’re looking really good.”

Of the 11 kids who participated in last May’s state meet, eight return, providing Liberty with plenty of big-meet experience. Five of those heavy hitters are on the girls’ side, including four standout seniors.

“We’ve got a good group of senior girls, and I’m excited about some of our freshman kids,” Beeler said. “So far I’ve been pretty impressed with them.”

In that senior class, speedster Sarah Martinez returns after placing in four events at the 2013 state meet, and Eli Pecsok and Ashley Martin both scored in two. Individually, Martinez finished fifth in the 400 meters and sixth in the 200. She also ran legs on the Falcons’ 4x100 (sixth) and 4x400 relays (seventh).

Martin also ran on that short relay and added a fourth place in the 100, while Pecsok took fourth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the high jump. She opened up this season on Tuesday with a massive two-foot personal best in the shot put (38-11).

Classmate Simone Wilson returns after contributing to that long relay team, and with a best of 117 feet, 1 inch, she also throws a mean javelin. And yet another senior, sprinter MacKenzie Beeler, returns after a hip injury kept her out of the state meet last year. She finished fifth in the NWOC 100 in 2012 and also ran on Liberty’s state-placing short relay that year.

Though she is just a sophomore, Rachel Khaw also offers plenty of state meet savvy. With a third-place result in the 1,500, she recorded the top finish of any Falcon in Eugene in 2013. She also took fourth in the 3,000 and ran on the long relay team. A star in both cross-country and soccer in the fall, Khaw also took third in the cross-country state meet a few months ago.

Those six girls should allow Liberty to cover plenty of ground, especially while Beeler is figuring out where to slot his talented youngsters, who include Bonnie Romero and Mihaela Keller. Beeler also said a corps of young female throwers should hold its own this season.

On the boys’ side, sprinters Matthew Langbehn and Josh Cole as well as distance runner Michael Francy return after running legs on Liberty’s state sixth-place long relay squad. Cole also just missed the 400 meter final with a ninth-place effort. Francy should be much improved on the oval this spring after finishing 11th in the cross-country state meet in November.

The Falcons should also be strong in the distances and throws. The boys cross-country team, including Jonathan Fookes, Austin Finster and Dominick Marshall, qualified for the state meet for the first time ever last fall. In the throws, Jon Horn (third, javelin; fourth in discus and shot put at the 2013 NWOC meet) and Byron Greenlee (sixth in shot put) are both capable of doing some damage in all three throws.

And Nick Bonat returns for his junior campaign after two fourth-place finishes at last season’s district meet. Add in a young but talented sprinter in freshman Ethan Boltz, and the Falcons are looking pretty solid.

“It’ll be like last year,” Beeler said. “We’re going to be competitive in every meet.”

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