Throughout Will Sheaffer's career, his grandpa, Mike Ramberg, was a constant presence, attending meets, basketball games, any activity that played a prominent role in his grandson's athletic adolescent.
He was Sheaffer's biggest fan and most influential mentor, a coach, a friend and supporter.
In early August of last year, Sheaffer lost his grandpa following a valiantly fought battle with cancer at the age of 85, just before the start of the cross country season. Since his grandpa's passing, Ramberg became a personal source of inspiration for Sheaffer. When he trained and the workouts became gruesome and taxing, Sheaffer would think of Ramberg and winning the greatest of achievements in his honor. His memory was the only motivation Sheaffer needed.
It's no coincidence that Sheaffer played the best basketball of his career during the Class 6A state tournament, helping the Crusaders shock the field and win a state crown. And in the final high school sporting event he'll ever compete in Sheaffer paid homage to his grandpa the best way he knew how.
Coming in one of the most competitive events at the state level, a double glove wearing, rain-soaked Sheaffer got out to a lead in the final two laps and outlasted McMinnville senior Zane Fodge to take first place in the 1,500 at the Class 6A state championship at Mt. Hood Community College on May 26. Sheaffer won championships as part of the basketball, cross country and track and field teams in the past, but this one was singularly special. This title was for grandpa.
"Coming into this race I was fully confident that I could do it and knew that I needed to dedicate this to him," Sheaffer said. "He was such a great mentor and figure in my life. I know he would've loved to be here and I owe so much to him. He overcame a lot of stuff in his life and he's a great example that I've always looked up to. I'm just so grateful to have had him in my life.
"I knew I couldn't let up for him," Sheaffer said. "He played such a big role in my running career. It really did the deal for me. I know he's somewhere watching. It was just surreal crossing the finish line. It was the greatest ending to high school sports for me."
Despite running in a perpetual late-May monsoon and cold 50 degree temperatures, Sheaffer set a personal record in the 1,500, saving his best race for the last time he'll ever run in a Crusader jersey.
"It's indescribable," Sheaffer said. "Running across that finish line it all came to fruition, all the work that I've done with my teammates over the last four years. It's an individual sport, but having (freshman John Schuler) to run with, having all these guys that I trained with for so long come back to watch this race means so much. This win is so much more than me."
Jesuit junior Sam Baricevic wasn't about to lose to Oregon City a second time. After getting unseated at the finish line in the 400 by Pioneer sophomore Ricky Ascencio, Baricevic crushed his anchor leg of the 4x400, sprinting away from Oregon City to help the Crusaders finish out the day with the 4x400 title (3:19.56).
"It tough, I was really unhappy about (the 400) and I just took that and put it to the 4x4," Baricevic said. "I wanted to get Oregon City back and get things back equal. I'm just lucky to be a part of it."
Jonathan Ulrich ran a solid first leg, then junior Jack Kelley gave Jesuit the lead for good, sprinting past Oregon City's Wyatt Lovell at the 300-meter mark. Michael Brittingham protracted Jesuit's lead on the third leg and Baricevic brought home the gold. The competition to make Jesuit's 4x400 relay is cutthroat. Every sprinter, middle distance athlete or cross country runner in the program wants a spot on that coveted squad. This foursome competed for the first time together at the Jesuit/Nike Twilight and ran a blistering 3:18. From then on they've been the state favorites.
"We know if we did our part everything would come together," Brittingham said. "We've been showing it all year, so it just feels really good to finally get it at a big meet. I knew I had to get out fast and get a big gap for (Baricevic), so he wouldn't have to work as hard."
The Crusaders finished third overall with 45 points while Westview was fifth (27 points), Sunset took 17th (15 points) and Beaverton was 22nd (12 points). Kelley took fourth in the 200, sophomore Jack Bennett was fifth in the 3,000 and Jesuit's 4x100 relay of Kelley, Brittingham, Baricevic and Gary Hollands finished second.