By Jeremy McDonald
PORTLAND, Ore.–There was once a runner name Abebe Bikila, a Ethopian distance runner from the 1950s ad 1960s. In 1960, Bikila ran the 1960 Rome Olympics barefooted and won the event in 2:21.23.
Though Stayton’s Casey Pugh isn’t a marathoner, or is planning on becoming one as much as we know right now, had an incident and lost one of his shoes with about a mile left in the race, and instead of running with one shoe, decided to take the other off to finish the race at 16:52.6. Good enough for 31st place in the Division 2 race at the Nike Portland XC Meet Saturday.
Now, this was just an example of the adversity that the Stayton team had to go through along with Ben Kirby being on the up-and-up from a cold and facing unfamiliar racing abilities that will help bring the team together said Head Coach Erin Holm.
“It was a cool experience to see them closing that gap so that they are a lot tighter group, it’s going to be beneficial for them as the season goes especially at State,” starts Holm.”The tighter their group, the better it’s going to be for them. It’s definitely helps when they get tired, not being strung out so much.
“So it was cool to see. Hopefully that continues,” Holm said with a smile and a laugh.
In race, it presented a learning experience of sorts of learning how to adjust from different starting positions and learning to adjust on literally on the run on how to work with what is given to you.
“It’s really hard because everyone has different kinds of racing styles and so some people were getting in the way, some were going way to fast so it was an uneven pace,” Ben Kirby said, describing the race environment out there. “We started in the inside, a couple of us in the back were jammed in. I think I did alright, I felt like I could’ve done a lot better but it’s ok I’ll just try to do better next year.”
Now with the decision to go Division-2 instead of splitting up the team is an unique one because of the ability of Pugh and Matt Frazeur could have had the latter up racing in the Division-1 or the Danner Championships, but the idea to run as a unit and rely on each other rescinded with the team better than those opportunities.
“It’s way better to race as a team than individually, you got each other pushing you forward, keeping you together. Competition between each other, but still were a brotherhood, so it’s way better,” said Frazeur on racing together as a team.
Frazeur finished with a time of 16:56.5 in the 35th position while Kirby finished 23 spots behind with a 17:19.9 time. Issac Nieto ran a 17:59.4, Brody Johnson ran a 18:12.6, Dylan Cudd ran a 18:30.1, and Zach Halloway ran a 19:10.1 in Saturday morning’s race at the Portland Meadows infield grass.
And with the Regis/Stayton Invitational October 5, they’ll reflect and use this experience of facing roughly 5,500 kids and 140 teams as a stepping stool for that Invite and moving forward for the second half of the season leading up to Districts on October 28.
“It was immensely harder, just trying to push yourself up against other schools unbelievably harder than by yourself,” said Frazeur. “It’s immensely better because big races like this when you have over 5,500 kids, it pushes you to train harder to be better.”