Soccer background serves South Salem runners well

Doug Binder, special to The Oregonian, April 19, 2010 2:08 p.m. Matt Long and Mars Jacobson of South Salem will be linked long after they leave high school.

As soccer players, they helped the Saxons win the school's first state championship.

And as track athletes, the seniors return this season with the experience of having run in the Class 6A finals. Long placed third in the 800 meters last year. Jacobson placed fifth in the 1,500 meters.

Last fall, soccer coach Eric Johansen deployed Long and Jacobson at left and right -- permitting them to play defense, midfield and forward on their respective sides of the field because they were able to cover so much ground without wearing out.

Long and Jacobson remain committed to their respective soccer clubs this spring. But the track and field season is also in their sights.

I am beginning to recognize myself as a distance runner, said Jacobson, who plans to run at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, in the fall.

Jacobson ran a personal best of 4 minutes, 0.75 seconds last year in the 1,500 and entertains thoughts of gunning for South Salem's 32-year school record. Jeff Hildebrandt (3:51.9) and Clancy Devery (3:52.0) hold the top two positions, both from 1978.

Long is more of a long sprinter, a product of his years on the soccer field.

Soccer has always been my first love, Long said. When I was younger, playing at (Cascade Football Club), it was always run us, run us, run us. I came to the realization my freshman year of running track that this carries over.

Long has a personal best of 1:57.55 in the 800 and used his toughness to take third in a state final that included state record holder Elijah Greer.

-- Doug Binder: