By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.— His finish of his 800-meter race as a sophomore had propel the young runner in West Salem’s Evan Henkel when he edged Gresham’s Joel Yasin for second-place in the 6A 800-meter run finals.
Coming down to the last fifty-meters, he dug deep sitting in third-place, and went into over-drive. Out-leaning the Gopher Senior to literally earn silver in the race, finishing the race with a time of 1:55.16.
“I have always had a strong kick, and I can probably attribute that strength to my work ethic. I don’t think I would have nearly as good of a kick if I didn’t just decide to race faster on the final few meters of each race,” said Henkel. “The kick at the end of that state final my sophomore year is probably one of the most painful experiences of my life. I really ran my heart out, because I knew I could beat him.
“My success in the 800 at state my sophomore year is another one of those moments. I was third in the final 50 meters of that 800, and I finished as strong as I could to barely out-lean for second place. That race proved to me that I am capable of more than I think I’m capable of, and that moment pushes me to become the best athlete I can be.”
The second-place finish achieved the goal he had that some thought was lofty, but it does speak to his work ethic. He thrives on high expectations. Henkel doesn’t consider himself as a natural runner, but just a hair above average.
“I have found over the years that I thrive with high expectations. I set goals that are outrageous and likely out of reach every year,” said Henkel. “My goal was to be in the top three at the state meet. My friends and parents thought that was a stretch of a goal, considering I didn’t even qualify for state in the 800 my freshman year. But I finished that season with a silver medal around my neck.
“I think my work ethic is the reason why I have become so successful at track. I do not think of myself as a natural runner. In fact, I consider myself to be barely better than average.”
Henkel considers his work ethic sets himself different from other runners. Set his goals and work as hard as he can to make it a reality. Practice, meet, Henkel puts the work in to achieve. Making sure he won’t have any regrets after a workout or race because he left it all on the track.
His 1:54.78 preliminary time in the 800-meter run put Henkel into some rarified air, closing in the record books entering what would have been his Junior season. The person ahead of the now Titan Senior was West Salem 2016-grad Ahmed Muhammed.
“Personally, it means more than I currently understand to be compared to Ahmed. He has always been not just an incredible athlete, but a strong and enthusiastic character that I try myself to emulate,” Henkel said. “Having an athlete like Ahmed in front of me always motivates me to push myself harder. For me to be compared to someone at the caliber that Ahmed was and is at has always been a dream of mine, and I look forward to challenging his record in the near future.”
He was primed and ready to make another (literal) run at the record his Junior year when the pandemic canceled his season.
Recently, Henkel took three weeks off running to focus on school work. Henkel’s currently wrapping up taking Multivariable Calculus at Willamette University in plans to major in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Idaho where is signed to run at beyond this year.
Getting back into it now has been hard Henkel admitted, but he’s slowly getting back into running shape for hopefully his Senior season at West Salem.
If everything goes according to plan, Henkel will be running Cross Country and Track and Field back-to-back seasons for the Titans. A challenge for sure for the Titan racer no doubt in trying to prevent injury, but is excited to get back to it despite the big task ahead of him.
“I’m certain I will come across challenges through this process; I’m just not as concerned with those as of now. Mentally, I am very pleased to have taken such a long break from running,” Henkel said. “Having those few weeks to just focus on other things and not worrying about completing a workout every day was a major stress reliever. So far, I haven’t experienced the physical advantage of my break, because I haven’t gotten into that serious of workouts yet.”
The past eight years, the goal has been to get to the collegiate ranks. It’s an opportunity that Henkel can’t wait to be apart of. He remembers the good times being apart of the Titans program. Besides taking second in the 800-meter and being apart of the 4×400 team his sophomore year, Henkel remembers being apart of the West Salem squad that won the 2018 Boys State Title, edging Tigard by six points.
He draws similarities between the Titans program and his new home in Moscow, Idaho with the Vandals of Idaho.
“At West Salem, family is key. As a varsity team, we work together and enjoy time with each other. The University of Idaho cross country and track teams function the same way. Considering I have been improving with West Salem’s team, I’m sure that my improvement will continue with the University of Idaho’s similar system,’ said Henkel.
“I am going to miss living and exercising in West Salem, but I am excited to move to the University of Idaho. I have met the coaches and some of the athletes at the U of I as well as taking a campus visit, and I know I will continue my success at this school.”