By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Hailey Lewetag’s dominant 800 meter State Title win as a Junior at North Salem was a picture perfect way to end her Junior Year with the Vikings.
Coming into her Junior year, she knew she had the potential to be a college runner following her eighth-place finish as a sophomore the year before down in Eugene at Hayward Field.
“My first time running the 800-(meter) was my sophomore year…I was seeded 13th, and knew I was competing against some of the best 800(meter) athletes in the state with only a few races under my belt,” Lewetag said. “My whole focus was to get on that podium, I knew I was better then my seed time and was ready to prove it. Placing 8th overall, receiving a medal and PR’ing at state was a huge push for me, that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a college runner.”
The next year, she returned to State, placing second in the prelims in the 800 meter dash. The next day, battling the rain overhead and slick track below her feet, Lewetag set the tone early in the two-lap State Final. Winning the race in 2:18.70, a full 1.83 seconds ahead of second-place Tess Conway of Scappoose.
“My junior season ended picture perfect. I focused on the 800-(meter), came away with the individual title, anchored for the relay title and a team title,” Lewetag said. “Last spring was a dream come true, so Absolutely I was looking forward to defending those titles with my teammates.”
Over the past summer, as Lewetag looked to defend her 5A State Title and help the Viking 4×400 meter win the 5A Title, the North Salem Senior put in work with the Valley Track Club to improve on her craft.
She won the USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic Championships with a time of 2:22.00. Lewetag followed that up with a PR run of 2:21.91 at the USATF Region 13 JO Championships, finishing second in the event.
Running at the Regional event was fun said Lewetag. The race taught her to be relax, enjoy the moment and not let the pressure get to you in the moment.
“Racing that race taught me that I have to relax and enjoy the moment because pressure during club season really isn’t a thing,” said Lewetag. “People are there to work hard because they love the sport of running so it’s nice to be around others who share the same love I do.
“Everyone on the club team supported one another and encouraged you to work hard to get what you want, so having a good number of successful athletes cheering me on during a race was so amazing.”
Alongside her in the club was High School teammate and future PSU Viking teammate Abi Swain.
“Abi and I joining the club last year has made us become closer as friends, not just as teammates. Our friendship has grown so much since my first day at North Salem and continued during the club season. I’m so happy to have her as one of my best friends and my future teammate/roommate at PSU,” said Lewetag of Swain.
Swain won the USATF Oregon Association JO Championships in the 1500 with a time of 5:01.65, finished fourth in the event at the Regional level (5:11.28) and won the 2K Steeplechase at the Regional level in 7:50.33.
For Lewetag, the experience with VTC had set her up for success for Cross Country, finishing 19th in the field of 90 in the 5A as North Salem finished fourth as a team in 5A. Her momentum from the club and cross country carried over to what have been her final year of Track and Field.
“Joining VTC during the summer last year helped me be set up for success entering my senior year. It helped me keep in shape and prepare for a successful cross-country season at North, where we placed fourth as a team in a very competitive 5A classification,” said Lewetag. “This also led me to be in great shape for spring 2020’s track season. Although my senior track season has been cancelled, this fitness from the club season, to cross country season, into this spring is leading me to a position to do great things at the next level in college.”
Moving into her freshman year as a Viking in Portland, she’s going to rely on this downtime to prepare for her first Division-I Cross Country and the indoor and outdoor Track and Field season. Focusing on the mental and physical aspect for those seasons ahead while preparing for the 5K, 6K, 800-meter and 1,500-meter races this upcoming season and trying to make a run at the Distance Medley Relay.
“This is a great time for me to mentally and physically get prepared for the upcoming season. During this time, I’m trying to up my mileage for college and see how my body and racing react to the changes,” said Lewetag. “Luckily, Abi and I get to train together so we will have a good support system when we head to PSU this fall. I’m excited for the challenge college racing will bring, and am looking forward to the whole experience.
“The 800-(meter) will always be a special race to me, but I think I’ll have a lot of improvement in the 1500 (meter) as I go to the next level. While training for my senior track season, I have been focusing a lot on the 1500m and on my speed. I can’t wait to see how much growth will come over the next year as I get into college and where it’ll take Abi and I in the future.”