Umatilla runner takes first at Hermiston meet

<p>Hermiston High School senior Katie Markwick, second from right, and Umatilla High School junior Berenice Chavez, left, run in the lead pack Saturday during their 5,000 meter race at Sandstone Middle School. Chavez won the race.</p>

Umatilla High School’s Berenice Chavez was off to a fast start at the beginning of her 5,000-meter varsity race Saturday at Sandstone Middle School and didn’t let up until she crossed the finish line in first place.

Chavez led the pack of more than 30 other runners for most of the race and finished more than 14 seconds ahead of Hermiston’s Katie Markwick, who took second place. Chavez achieved a personal best time of 20 minutes and 42:42 seconds.

“That was a PR (personal record) for the season,” she said. “I think that is my fastest time ever, so that is exciting because that was only my second race of the season.”

Chavez said she went out fast thinking that she was just going to stay with the girls in the top four, but she was not expecting to lead the whole race at the end.

“My coach was yelling at me that they were probably going to come back, and I should just keep going,” she said. “Coming around probably the last two miles, my coach was just like ‘have fun,’ and while I was running, I just forced a smile on my face and reminded myself that I love running. I just took out what I could and did what I could and I was excited.”

Chavez said as when crossed the finish line, her legs were dead, which showed she had done something right.

A couple of days prior, however, Chavez said she was feeling discouraged about her running career in general.

“Just a few days ago, I was talking to my coach, and I wasn’t as motivated to run because I had never run so many miles in my whole years of running,” she said.

“I was just so tired. Coming into this race, I was just thinking even if you don’t have a good race, you just have to give it all your effort.”

Chavez said she wasn’t worried about times or placing at the start of the meet. She said she just went out there and enjoyed it.

“I think I discovered something different,” she said. “I am not so focused on just racing and winning, and I am more just go out and have fun. I mean, I run because it is something that I enjoy doing, and I can’t forget that.”

Chavez’s coach, Josh Ego, was equally impressed with her performance during the race.

“She is awesome that way. Bernice is just a really hard worker and a dream to coach,” he said. “She just works really hard. It is fun to see a kid who loves what they do. You get out what you put in.”

Umatilla ended up placing fourth place with 67 points. The Dalles-Wahtonka took first with 37 points, and Hermiston took second at the meet with 52 points.

Hermiston’s Markwick said she was also impressed with her personal performance.

“I just went out and went hard, hung with all of those Dalles girls and then just kicked at the end,” she said. “My last mile, I just gave it all just to stay with the Dalles girl. I then tried to go catch that Umatilla girl, but (she) opened up such a big gap, but that last 150 meters, I just gave it my all and passed the Dalles girl. It felt good.”

Markwick said she had high expectations for herself as a senior and being on her home course but thought she did well because she poured everything she had into the race.

As far as the team is concerned, Markwick said she thinks the Hermiston Bulldogs have some work to do, but in the end, they will put everything they have trained for together and pull off a great season.

Umatilla will next compete at the Bob Firman Invitational Saturday in Boise.

Hermiston will next compete at the Columbia River Power Marathon at 7 a.m. Saturday in Umatilla.

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