Falcons soar to a second-place team finish on the strength of four individual state champions

If success really is contagious, the Liberty girls track and field team surely could serve as Exhibit A.

At last month’s two-day Class 5A state meet in Eugene, the Falcons quickly gave notice that they came to compete. The team’s first runner, Rachel Khaw, opened the competition with a fourth-place finish in the 3,000 meters, and then Eli Pecsok really threw down the gauntlet with a win in the high jump.

The squad entered the second day of the meet fully in trophy contention with 15 points.

“It’s like, ‘You know what? Let’s go for a bigger trophy, let’s see if we can hang on to second place,’” coach Perry Beeler said of his team’s day two mindset. “And everybody stepped up.”

Indeed, it seemed as if all of the Falcons wanted in on the fun. In fact, in a remarkable display of consistency and competitive spirit, every Liberty girl who took to the track or field over those two days walked away with at least one medal and scored points to contribute to the team’s efforts.

The cumulative results were glorious.

By the time the meet closed on May 24, the Falcons had recorded multiple individual victories, a runner-up result and some major hardware — a second-place team trophy. Only Summit, which could certainly toss its name in for consideration as one of the most dominant programs in state history, finished higher, though the Falcons did match the powerhouse Storm state title for title.

The top-two team finish easily eclipsed Liberty’s previous best result of fifth place, which came just a year ago.

That had been an impressive performance, but this year’s was at the next level. Entering the competition, the Liberty girls program had won a total of five individual state titles, all of them coming courtesy of former Falcon hurdles great Olivia Ferrara.

In the span of a little more than 24 hours last month, Liberty nearly doubled that number.

“I was hoping for a champion. I knew that there was the potential for a lot more, but I was hoping one of them would come through,” Beeler said. “To end up with four individual champions, that’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

But potential did turn into reality that wonderful weekend, starting with Pecsok’s high jump title toward the end of the first day at Hayward Field. The senior multi-event standout won on fewer misses to become the first Falcon — boy or girl — to win a state title in a field event.

The ball just kept rolling the next day, probably the greatest day in the history of the program. Early on, Khaw became the first Liberty runner to win a state championship in a race longer than 300 meters. The precocious sophomore — who has been nothing short of brilliant in three sports over her first two years of high school — was not to be denied in the 1,500 meters, roaring out of the pack with a searing last-lap kick for her first state crown in any sport.

Pecsok then doubled her pleasure with a win in the shot put, dominating the field to win by more than a foot.

And then there was Sarah Martinez, who put it all together in the 300 hurdles, charging ahead down the homestretch to capture a state championship in the last individual state meet race of her brilliant career.

The Falcons also picked up points from the 4x100 relay squad (Bonnie Romeo, MacKenzie Beeler, Martinez, Ashley Martin), from Martinez in the 400, and from Pecsok in the 100 hurdles before staging a scintillating duel with Summit in the 4x400 relay to close out the meet. Martinez, Martin, Megan Rose and Khaw battled the Storm step for step before settling for second. The quartet broke the school record for a third time this season.

In the end, the Falcons’ collective reward was that shiny silver trophy — a symbol of overall team excellence.

As Beeler put it: “There’s big-meet teams, and then there’s BIG-meet teams, and we’re a BIG-meet team.”

No arguing on that one.

Liberty has the hardware to prove it.

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