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Sophia Beckmon, Kate Peters, Benjamin Balazs win national titles at historic Hayward Field

Several other Oregon athletes have come close to joining Beckmon, Peters and Balazs atop the awards stand at the Nike Outdoor Nationals.

By René Ferrán | Photo by Leon Neuschwander 

Sophia Beckmon is an Oregon City Pioneer, but the rising senior has found a second home at Hayward Field in Eugene. 

For the third time in a year, Beckmon won a major championship at the University of Oregon’s hallowed track and field stadium, winning a second Nike Outdoor Nationals title in the long jump Friday afternoon. 

Beckmon, who became the first Oregon girl to jump more than 20 feet with a legal wind in winning the OSAA Class 6A state championship last month, broke her record for the third time this year with her final jump of Friday’s competition, going 20-8.

“I wasn’t really going for the win, honestly,” Beckmon said Saturday after finishing a long day with an eighth-place finish in the Championship 100-meter final. “I was just looking to PR, but it’s definitely nice to come back here and defend my title. I’m definitely very excited about that.”

Recent Sunset graduate Benjamin Balazs won the 2,000-meter steeplechase Saturday, with Lake Oswego rising senior Kate Peters later becoming the third Oregonian to earn a national title during the four-day competition, winning the 2-mile run with a dominant final lap.

Balazs won the Metro League district titles in the 1,500 and 3,000 last month but was unable to compete at the OSAA 6A state meet the following weekend. He finally got his chance to return to Hayward, where he won the 2K steeplechase at the Oregon Relays, and after a steady first half of the race, he pulled away on the final lap to win in 5 minutes, 47.14 seconds.

Peters defeated Massachusetts standout Ellie Shea by nearly five seconds to win in 9:51.48, blowing away the previous state record in the event by almost 40 seconds.

The duo broke away from the lead pack around the mile mark, with Shea holding a slight lead until the bell lap. Peters passed her going around the curve onto the backstretch and steadily pulled away.

“It was nice, because I didn’t have to do any of the work,” Peters said. “I hung out behind her, sat with her the whole race, and then the last 300 meters, just went for it and outkicked her.”

A week ago, Peters ran the second-fastest 1,500 in state history at the Portland Track Festival, going 4:17.80. Now, she has her sights set on qualifying for the U.S. team that will head to Cali, Colombia, this summer for the world U-20 championships.

Peters will run the 3,000 meters at the U.S. U-20 championships that run concurrently with the U.S. national championships next weekend at Hayward.

“Things have been looking good in training,” said Peters, who has committed to Oklahoma State University. “I’m glad it’s all coming together so I can showcase myself and put on some good performances.”

Beckmon made jumping 20 feet a season goal, and once she did that by going 20-1½ at the OSAA state meet, “I knew it would be easy to keep going up,” she said. “That’s usually the case when I get a goal.”

Her series Friday included three jumps in the 20s, including a 20-3 in the third round that put her in the lead and a 20-7 in the fifth round before closing the day with her winning jump.

“Just the atmosphere, but also the people here,” Beckmon said of her run of Hayward Field magic. “I always have a lot of people come watch me here. It’s easy to feel the energy here, especially when you get the crowd going.”

Several other Oregon athletes have come close to joining Beckmon, Peters and Balazs atop the awards stand — including Beckmon’s former Pioneers teammate, Harley Daniel, who matched her personal best in the 100 hurdles by running 14.05 seconds to finish second. She also took second in Friday’s 400 hurdles, which she’ll also run next year at Utah. 

Another national runner-up was Lake Oswego rising junior Mia Brahe-Pedersen, who narrowly missed avenging her only loss of the season Saturday evening but came up three-hundredths of a second shy of beating Autumn Wilson of Austin, Texas.

Brahe-Pedersen lost to Wilson at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational in April, then came back last month to win the OSAA 6A title in the 100 in a wind-aided 11.09 that was the fourth-fastest time ever by a high school girl in all conditions.

In Saturday’s final, she ran her second-fastest career wind-legal time in 11.36 despite feeling “kind of wonky” throughout the race.

“I had a pretty rough start. My reaction time was not the best,” she said. “That’s a little bit frustrating and something I’ll have to work on. Then, close to the end, my form broke down trying to catch her.”

Brahe-Pedersen now has to prepare for a grueling final day of the meet, during which she’ll run the 200 prelims and (she hopes) final, as well as the 4x100 and 4x100 relays. She hopes the lesson she learned Saturday will help her Sunday.

“I’m used to having prelims on one day, then finals the next,” she said. “I think having them on the same day today messed with me a little bit. It was hard to switch my mindset and go from, ‘It’s just a prelim,’ to, ‘OK, it’s a final, what happens here is the final say on things.’”

Lily Jones, who recently graduated from Roosevelt and will run at Oregon next spring, finished fourth in the 100 final in 11.54, with Beckmon eighth in 11.81 — a wind-legal personal best.

Other Oregon top-six finishers (All-America qualifiers) through three days of competition include: 

  • Charlotte Richman, a recent Ida B. Wells graduate, took second in Thursday’s 5,000 in 16:46.56.
  • Milwaukie rising senior Logan Law placed second in the boys 5,000, finishing in 14:34.29.
  • Summit teammates Barrett Justema, Teaghan Knox, Claire McDonald and Magdalene Williams, who took third in the 4x800 relay running for Mondo Track Club in 9:06.57. Just behind them were Lincoln teammates Evan Novy-Hildesley, Ellie Cook, Emily Rehn and Riley Cash running for Forest Park TC in 9:09.79.
  • Justema and Williams joined Summit’s Ruby Bishop and Ella Thorsett to finish second in the distance medley in 11:47.47. Novy-Hildesley, Cash, Cook and Kylee Nelson combined to place fifth in 12:00.51, while Tualatin’s quartet of Mahathi Sridhar, Isabella Kneeshaw, Karys Gates and Lauren Ayers took sixth in 12:10.86.
  • Central Catholic rising senior Kyeese Hollands finished third in the javelin with a personal-best throw of 152-7, moving her to 27th on the all-time state list.
  • Recent Cascade graduate Emma Gates, who became the fourth girl in state history to clear 6 feet in the high jump this spring, tied for second with a jump of 5-10½, missing a national title on a tiebreaker. Tualatin junior-to-be Kyra Bakke tied for sixth at 5-6½.
  • Recent Franklin graduates Charlie North and Kaiya Robertson made the awards stand in the 2-mile race. North, coming off a third-place finish in the mile at the Portland Track Festival, took third in the boys race in 8:54.86. Robertson placed fifth behind Peters in the girls race in 10:13.37.
  • Recent Ida B. Wells graduate Nolan Malcomson took second in the 400 hurdles in 52.47.
  • Tualatin’s Marcus Ludes, Joshua Tedlock, Alex Smith and Noah Ogoli finished third in the 4x200 relay in 1:30.15.
  • A trio of boys distance medley teams finished 2-3-4, led by Crater’s quartet of Josiah Tostenson, Aidan Chenoweth, Jeffrey Hellman and Tyrone Gorze in 10:02.47. Lincoln’s Tucker Bowerfind, Enrico Ganz, Finn Chamberlain and Aiden Smith took third in 10:02.80, followed by Central Catholic’s Max Girardet, Stryder Todd-Fields, Charlie Black and Wesley Shipsey in 10:03.89.
  • Recent Tigard graduate Pat Vialva, who won the 6A state title in the javelin last month, placed fifth in the event at nationals with a throw of 196-4. 

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