Tualatin's Lakeman is setting the pace
Tualatin High School's Caleb Lakeman is fast.
Just how fast surprised even him, after Lakeman dashed to a win at the Ash Creek Cross Country Festival, Sept. 11, at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. The Timberwolf topped the field of more than 250 of the state's premier high school runners, posting a personal-best time of 14:58.50.
"I was just going into that meet with the mindset of just having fun and competing with the other guys who I didn't really get a chance to compete with last year," Lakeman said. "So, it was great to come out of there with a win, and I was super-pumped to run that fast."
Lakeman is the son of Dirk Lakeman, the former Oregon state mile record holder prior to Galen Rupp breaking the 27-year-old mark in 2004. The younger Lakeman has been running competitively since the third grade, but he said he didn't begin to take it seriously until four years ago. Since then, he's come to appreciate the sport, along with the nuances and therapeutic opportunities it provides.
"I enjoy pushing myself, but (I) also use running like therapy," he said. "I use it as a way to escape my problems and express my emotions in a way. All the emotion that I'm feeling, I just put that into a race and then just race my heart out."
Distance running is hard, and races often come down to who wants it more. Oregon racing legend Steve Prefontaine once famously said, "Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it." Lakeman said he runs with a similar mindset and enjoys putting himself and others to the "ultimate test" on the course.
"I love to push myself and push my competitors to see who has more guts," Lakeman said. "I've experienced the 'wall' a lot during workouts, and it's mostly mental. If you just push your body enough, you can fight through it."
His trick? Staying relaxed.
"I just keep telling myself to 'hang on, hang on, hang on,'" Lakeman added. "I try to relax as much as possible, drop my shoulders and just kind of zone out."
The Timberwolves senior is 3-for-3 this season, placing first at Ash Creek, at the Three Rivers League Preview earlier this month, and this past Friday at the Meriwether CC Classic. He also won two of his three high school competitions as part of the abbreviated season this past spring, winning a three-team dual at Tualatin High and the Three Rivers League Championship at Fern Hill Park. His only blemish, if you can call it that — a second-place finish — came at a dual meet at Oregon City, where he finished just behind his favorite training partner: his brother Aaron.
Aaron Lakeman, a junior, is also an accomplished runner who placed 21st at Ash Creek, with a time of 15:56.70.
Caleb Lakeman said his brother is invaluable as a training partner and has played a key role in pushing him to be his best. While they obviously compete on the course in the fall and track in the spring, it's what they do outside of competition that's truly paid dividends for Caleb.
"No one really sees what happens behind the scenes," Caleb Lakeman said. "He's my best friend, and I do all my training with him. He's super-encouraging and pushes me. I want to be better than him, and he wants to be better than me, so it's a good dynamic to have.
"People don't really realize how important he is to me, and I just want to thank him for that."
Caleb Lakeman said he doesn't really have a ton of role models when it comes to running, but he has always looked up to Rupp, a Portland native and Olympic medalist. But aside from Rupp, Lakeman said it's his dad and his times that inspire him the most.
"I've always measured my high school career against my dad's," he said. "I like asking him what he ran his junior and senior years, because I always wanted to run faster."
Lakeman said he aspires to run at the Division I level in college and has already garnered interest from Gonzaga University, the University of Colorado, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, to name a handful. But more immediately, he is aiming for a state title in cross country and on the track.
Like in cross country, Lakeman has seen rapid improvement over the past two years on the track, placing fifth and 11th in the 800 and 1,500 meters at last year's state track and field championships.
This year, especially now with his Ash Creek result further inspiring him, he believes the sky's the limit regarding what he can accomplish before his time at Tualatin is through.
"I want to win state (cross country) and try and win the 1,500 in track," Lakeman said. "It's going to be hard, because there's some big competition, but after the Ash Creek race, I definitely think I have a chance. But I also want to run faster than my dad in the mile and qualify for NXN (Nike cross nationals) or Footlocker. It's about pushing myself."
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