Racing against the record book

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By Grant Lucas
The Bulletin

Dave Turnbull has been here since the beginning.

He was here at Summit High when the doors of the new school in west Bend opened in 2001, the hallway without a trophy case, the walls of the gymnasium without championship banners. He was coaching when the 2005 Storm boys won the track and field program’s first state championship, and he was still going when the 2007 Summit girls took the state’s top spot, which they have not vacated since.

Yet it is not the Storm girls’ dominance that impresses Turnbull, not the 11 straight district championships nor the nine consecutive Class 5A state titles — a streak of state power unmatched for as long as the OSAA has been staging high school track and field championships in Oregon.

Each year — each week, really — Turnbull is awestruck by how Summit goes about winning. The Storm own more OSAA state titles than any other Oregon high school girls track and field program.

Their total of nine state crowns is surpassed only by three boys programs that competed generations before Summit High School opened. In the 50-year history of OSAA girls track and field, 11 teams have scored at least 100 points in the state championship meet; the Storm have done it five times, including each of the past two seasons when Summit set (with 125 points in 2014) and then reset (with 151 points in 2015) the state-meet team scoring record.

“The kids definitely want to improve each year, but I can’t say that that’s just something they come up with on their own,” says Turnbull, now in his 15th season at Summit. “They’re just satisfied to run fast and all that kind of stuff. But I will tell you (that) they do discuss points and … things you wouldn’t expect a normal team to do. They’re very, very aware of what’s going on. They know the numbers game. The girls average a 3.86 (GPA). They’re a group of kids that are pretty cerebral.”

The Storm are well aware of what history has already been made (see above) and knowledgeable about what records have already been beaten (six state-meet and eight Intermountain Conference records). It would appear that Summit is not satisfied with just winning — the Storm are not content unless they win in record fashion.

“It’s only my second year,” says sophomore sprinter Piper Flannery with a smile, “but I kind of think that is the mindset. But that just kind of goes along with the passion.”

“That’s just extra motivation,” adds junior Camille Weaver, who set the IMC record in the 100-meter hurdles last week and owns the state’s second-best time in the 100 hurdles and the long jump and the fifth-best mark in the triple jump. “We just really want to win, but knowing that we’re so close to our previous records, we just want to keep on getting more. It’s motivation to train harder. Having that (mindset of), ‘We want to keep getting better,’ I think breaking more records comes with that.”

That is what has driven this season’s Storm. They already have the moon; now they are discovering a new one to shoot for. Of course there are more records to break (see: all-time mark in the 4×400 relay, which Summit made its sole focus during the first team meeting of the season). Yet because of the Storm’s success over the past decade, it is their own records they are aiming for (see: Summit breaking its own state team points record).

“The only way to keep improving is to set higher goals,” says senior sprinter Hannah Cochran, who recorded the state’s top time (24.48 seconds) in the 200 last week, a time that ranks second-best in the 10-year history of Class 5A. “Every time we accomplish something, regardless if there’s anybody near us, we try to go even higher.”

How much higher is there? Weaver herself set three program records this season, including a district-best 14.71 seconds in the 100 hurdles. There are, of course, 5A records to chase (Storm athletes are ranked first in four events) and all-classification records to go after (Storm athletes are ranked in the top three in three events).

It would perhaps be more common if Summit happened upon these records. Yet the Storm consciously hunt them down.

“Right now, they have to push numbers to keep them in their own game,” Turnbull says. “If they’re not pushing their own numbers, if they’re not pushing to reach the next number … track is a numbers game. Looking at the competition around the state, if you’re looking at best times and stuff like that, that’s a healthy thing.”

Summit athletes need not stray far from home to locate those top marks. The program’s website includes arguably the most comprehensive Oregon high school track and field record book in the state. School records, IMC bests, top performances in every classification, and even all-time, all-classification records. It is a coincidence, really, Turnbull says, that the program looking to make history possesses those chronicles. (The father of a former Summit runner created the log and updates those records.)

What is not by chance, however, is the coaching staff Turnbull has assembled. Among the many coaches: Damien Olson, the state record holder in the high jump, which he set as a senior at Bend High in 1997; and Rachelle Wilson, the program record holder in the 300 hurdles who also ran a leg of the 2008 4×400 relay team that still owns the 5A state-meet record.

So while it seems it is simply kismet that the Storm possess the records, it is no surprise that they continue to break records with a staff of coaches who themselves have a history of making history. And over time, Summit athletes have developed a belief that no record is unbreakable.

“It takes time,” Turnbull says. “It takes a coaching staff that believes in those things and is not afraid to ask more of kids. I hope it doesn’t sound too simplified, but when you set a goal in front of you, you have a discipline and a focus. … You have to set things up from the start to reach these levels. It happens from the get-go.”

Turnbull recognizes how many incredible girls teams Summit has fielded over the past decade: the 2008 squad that set six 5A state-meet records; the 2014 team that set the scoring record with 125 points; and, of course, last year’s group that put up a head-turning 151 points. Still, Turnbull says of the current Summit girls squad, “these are the most competitive kids I’ve ever known.” Knowing them, is it possible these Summit athletes would not be satisfied until every record belongs to the Storm?

“I think there’s a little bit of that,” Turnbull says with a chuckle. “I hate to laugh about it, but you look at them, and they want to get out there and see their names in the record book.”

However many track and field records there are to break, the Storm are looking to do so, perhaps until all records have “Summit” written alongside them. Yet as long as the Summit girls continue to break records, there will always be records to break — and that is just how the Storm like it.

“I’m the only senior girl on the team, but our juniors and our sophomores are stronger than any other in the state, it seems like,” Cochran says. “Our goal is to prove how strong we are.”

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