Newberg High School middle distance runner signs with Grand Canyon University

SETH GORDON - Senior middle distance Kyle Charbonneau commits to run at NCAA Division 1 Grand Canyon University at a signing ceremony with his family and coaches April 19 at Newberg High School. Charbonneau recently set the school record in the 800 (1:55.60) and is eyeing a second straight trip to the 6A state finals in the event.

When Newberg High School assistant track coach Keith Marshall first saw Kyle Charbonneau run as a freshman, it was obvious to him that he was watching an excellent athlete.

"He had a very effortless stride, he was very quick," Marshall said. "You could tell he was going to be something special."

But what he couldn't tell just from watching was how ambitious Charbonneau's goals were, even then, and just how determined he becomes when he sets his sights on something.

That's what really sets him apart, Marshall told a crowd of friends and teammates at a signing ceremony April 19, when Charbonneau committed to run for Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

"When he decides to set a goal, he is all in for it," Marshall said. "I've witnessed the last couple of winters, all the time and miles spent trying to achieve those goals, and it's pretty impressive. There are not a lot of people that can stay that motivated and have that much drive."

The signing event represented one of those goals, in that Charbonneau had stated he wanted to run for an NCAA Division I School, but also the culmination of achieving many smaller goals.

Charbonneau took up track as an eighth grade student, but soccer was his first passion. Although he went on to help Newberg make its deepest playoff run, to the state quarterfinals, in school history and lead the Tigers to their first-ever regular-season league title this past fall, he slowly began to see that his athletic future was more likely to come on the track than on the pitch.

After fancying himself a sprinter in middle school, Charbonneau took up the 800 as freshman, but was frustrated by the slow pace of his improvement. He finished the year with a PR mark of 2:10.8 in the 800, but even then he had some pretty lofty goals in mind, including Dan Harper's school record (1:56.23) in the event, which had just been set the previous season.

"Going into my freshman year, I don't want to say there wasn't any doubt, but I believed that I could get under that 1:56 mark because that was set my eighth grade year," Charbonneau said. "So coming into my freshman year, I knew exactly what it was and it was always in the back of my mind. I think that really drove me and pushed me, wanting that for four years."

Charbonneau saw the kind of progress he had been hoping for as a sophomore, finishing his season with a 2:00.54 to drop his PR by over 10 seconds.

Going into his junior year, Charbonneau and then-senior Peter Gentile told themselves that one of the two of them would break the mark. Neither of them got there, but Charbonneau got within shouting distance after posting a 1:56.83 in the preliminaries at the 6A state finals and later placed eighth.

The hope this season was to break the record early in the spring, which Charbonneau did by placing sixth in 1:55.60 at the Oregon Relays in April in Eugene.

"A lot of people talk about setting goals, but I think there is something in the back of a lot of people's minds that they're kind of afraid to really set a goal because what if they fail?" Marshall said. "That's just not the way he thinks. When he sets a goal, it doesn't matter, he's going to get it."

Marshall also praised Charbonneau for being thorough in his research of colleges and for being proactive in reaching out to track coaches. He trimmed his choices down to four, then visited Grand Canyon and Division 1 High Point in North Carolina, as well as Biola in California and Seattle-Pacific, both Division 2 schools.

In the end, Grand Canyon won out, in large part because his sister also attends there and other family is close by, but also due the school's communications department, as he wants to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.

"I think that everyone has it in their mind that D1 is just this higher thing," Charbonneau said. "It wasn't actually that big to me. It wasn't the biggest factor. Of course, it's going to supply something. It looks better, it feels better today, 'I'm going D1.' But I would have been perfectly fine running at the D2 level."

NHS track coach Brandon Ramey told the crowd that he had invited the whole track team, but especially the underclassmen, because Charbonneau personifies a powerful lesson.

"There was no idea in Kyle's mind three years ago when he started running as a freshman, he was running because he wanted to get in better shape for soccer," Ramey said. "He still has a passion for soccer and passion for other things, but you can take your goals and desires and dreams and make them come to fruition in these last couple years. That's why I have you here."

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