Two freshmen turned a personal competition into a fundraiser to fight racism

COURTESY PHOTO: JACKSON RIGNEY - Zach Rooney, left, and Jackson Rigney run on the LOHS track.

Jackson Rigney and Zach Rooney's friendship involves a good amount of healthy competition.

The two incoming freshmen at Lake Oswego High School are always competing against each other, and it extends even to minutiae like who can eat the most habanero peppers in one sitting.

"Zach and I are very competitive people, but it's healthy competition," Jackson said.

Zach recently had a new competition up his sleeve: Run 24 miles in 24 hours.

Jackson was interested immediately but thought they could take it a step further.

"I kind of had the idea to turn it into something more meaningful than just one of our competitions," Jackson said.

They decided to turn it into a fundraiser. The only question was where to dedicate the money.

Jackson said it wasn't hard to land on something because the world has so many problems.

"I really wanted to focus this run on the long-lasting battle of racism," Jackson said.

He decided they would donate the money from the fundraiser to Lake Oswego's Respond to Racism group.

He decided to keep it local because he wanted to know that the money was going directly back into his community.

They started the race at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, on the Lake Oswego High School track and finished at 3 p.m. the following day. Friends and family gathered to see them off, and some students even joined the race, though none finished the 24 miles besides Jackson and Zach.

Jackson is an avid runner. He's been running cross country since the fourth grade, so the long-distance nature of this competition wasn't the hardest part for him.

"I think the hardest part about it was the waiting in between," Jackson said.

They ran every hour on the hour. When they finished the mile they had down time — to refuel, take a rest or play a game of pickup basketball. Oftentimes they'd spend their time in between miles just trying not to fall asleep. Jackson said he started the race on three hours of sleep the night before. And it would be 39 hours before the two would finally get some shut-eye.

"You do feel like giving up, you feel like falling asleep," he said.

He said if he hadn't turned the race into a fundraiser he would have been more prone to giving up, but having hundreds of people counting on him kept him awake.

Before the race started, Jackson sent the GoFundMe link to Lake Oswego High School varsity basketball coach Marshall Cho.

"He's been a role model for me since fourth grade," Jackson said.

Cho liked the idea so much he tweeted the link out to his 3,119 followers and joined the boys for their first and last mile.

And Cho wasn't their only running guest.

Lake Oswego mayoral candidate Joe Buck joined Jackson and Zach at 8 a.m. for mile 14.

With adrenaline and Red Bull coursing through their veins, the two finished their race, each running for 24 hours. Zach didn't keep track of his time for the final mile but Jackson finished with a 5 minute, 10 second mile, his new personal best.

"It was very organic, and I could not be more proud of him to be honest," his mom, Kim Rigney, said.

Jackson did not expect such an overwhelming response from the community.

"I was just so surprised by just how generous people were," he said.

The influx of donations from the community exceeded the goal tenfold. Jackson's idea, born from yet another physical competition between friends, raised over $3,000 for Respond to Racism.

"We would love to make this an annual thing. I would 100% do this every year, (and) each year come up with a fundraiser for it," Jackson said.

Click here to view Jackson's GoFundMe.

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