A season full of track and field exhibitions culminated with one final relay race.
While enduring a schedule of local youth events, the 400-meter relay team of Isaac Johnson, Ian Etheridge, David Evans and Austin Sprenger ran their way to the top time in the northwest region.
Each runner's effort combined for a time of 50.8 seconds during the final state meet in Eugene on July 2, and that mark eventually earned them a free trip to Pennsylvania for the Hershey's Track and Field Games North American Finals on Aug. 6.
As the Region 3 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon Territory) representative, the Lebanon-based foursome took Lane No. 1 inside seven of the nation's other top 13-14 year-old 4x100 relay teams.
The end result was a seventh-place finish and a team-record time of 50.5 to finish just 0.02 ahead of the Region 4 team from Puerto Rico.
It was the weirdest feeling ever, said Johnson, A Seven Oak Middle School student. The blood was just rushing through my body, and I needed to pee extremely bad, but I didn’t have time for that because the (starting) gun went off.
Etheridge, a fellow eighth-grader at Hamilton Creek School, took the baton for the second 100 meters.
I saw Isaac coming up in a couple feet before he handed off to me and I kind of blacked out for a second, said Etheridge. He got closer, I got (the baton), and then I just took off.
Etheridge said he managed to cut some distance lost on the start of the run, but noted that the level of competition was much higher than what they ran against during local events.
I just booked it to make up as much ground as I could, said Sprenger, the anchor leg. We were about 10 or 20 meters behind when I got it. There were some fast kids we were racing against.
Lebanon High School incoming freshmen Evans and Sprenger pushed to edge Puerto Rico over the second half of the race, and the team was happy not to finish last in the eight-team sprint.
We still got seventh in North America. Not many people can say that, added Johnson.
The on-track experience was just the beginning to a memorable trip. The team traded event souvenirs and enjoyed the Hershey amusement park's roller coaster and post-event dance with other participating athletes.
The highlight for the team came when they met with Summer Olympic gold medalists Carl Lewis and Rafer Johnson.
The legendary athletes offered personal advice to the Lebanon runners, and now the quartet has high hopes when they can reunite together on the LHS track team. The Warriors' varsity 4x100 team topped all 5A Mid-Willamette Conference squads in 2011, and Johnson, the son of LHS basketball coach Kevin Johnson, believes they will one day help to continue the school's winning ways.
We at least made it (to the national finals), but we want to try and win state someday, said Johnson. We're the next breed of Lebanon runners, and we won't settle for this bronze color. We're searching for gold.
Hershey’s Track & Field Games
North American Finals
Oregon competitor results
200: 8. Jacob Carpenter (North Bend), 32.13
100: 1. Dawsom Cockman (Bend), 12.91
200: 2. Will Garvin (Cannon Beach), 26.76
Softball throw: 7. Tucker Flannery (Bend), 161-9 1/2
100: 7. Luke Lucero (North Bend), 12.63
1,600: 3. Hayden Scott (Weston), 4:48.9
400 relay: 7. Region 3 (Isaac Johnson, Ian Etheridge, David Evans, Austin Sprenger -- Lebanon), 50.5
Standing long jump: 8. Michael Harlan ILeaburg), 8-4 1/4
50: Shelyn Pendergrass-Anderson (Portland), 8.33
100: 7. Elise Unruh-Thomas (Eugene), 15.01
200: 4. Kami Walk (Eugene), 30.71.
1,600: 3. Gracie Todd (Eugene), 5:16.3
Softball throw: 10. Bethany Bachmeier (Sisters), 126-8 1/2