By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Since placing seventh at the state track and field meet as a sophomore, Leilani Salang had pictured herself climbing up the podium until the day she arrived to the top.
With a nearly 10-foot PR in the discus, Thursday, May 18 was that day as the Blanchet Catholic senior and Keizer resident won the 3A state championship at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“I had visualized it many times,” Salang said of winning the state title. “I had thought about it the night before, walking from the seventh place podium though every step getting all the way to the top. It felt so good, just accomplishing my goal.”
With a throw of 125-11 at districts, Salang entered the state tournament as the favorite. But a newspaper story posted on one of her challenger’s Instagram pages gave Salang extra motivation.
“She (Jordynn Slater) had gone to her local paper, the Bend Bulletin, and she told them she was going to be the next girl to win all three throwing events, only the third in history,” Salang said. “It was a little overzealous. It’s not something I would ever do, especially call it when you’re not ranked first in all of the events.”
After throws of 115-07, 117-01, 117-02, Salang trailed Slater going into finals. With only three discus throws remaining in her high school career, Salang thought of her cousin who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I wanted to win it and dedicate it to him,” Salang said. “I just thought of him and he’s sitting in the hospital. That inspired me and gave me that extra push.”
In her first attempt in finals, Salang threw the discus so far that she didn’t comprehend the correct number. Instead of 139 feet, the actual distance, Salang thought she heard 130 feet, nine inches.
Either would have been enough to top Slater, who placed a distant second at 124-03.
“When I threw it, it didn’t really feel like a hard throw,” Salang said.
“It felt effortless, like the disc just released out of my hand. It all just felt really good and really smooth. I don’t actually remember letting go of it. I think I just had so much momentum that it just left my hand. When I released it, I didn’t even watch it go out. I looked down to make sure that my feet were still in and that I hadn’t scratched.”
For good measure, Salang cranked out a 129-04 on her final throw.
Salang got on the podium three more times before her final high school track and field meet was over.
Individually, she placed third in the shot put with a throw of 37-11.5 and eighth in the javelin at 107-08. Salang, Emily Collier, Trinity Phipps and Bailey Hittner set a new school record of 51.30 to finish sixth in the 4×100 relay.
Salang’s younger sister, Kalea, a sophomore, placed sixth in both the shot put and discus.
“She pushes me,” Leilani said. “When she’s having a good day, I have to have a better day because I don’t want to get beat by her. It’s all fun.”
As a team, Blanchet placed second, finishing only five points behind state champion Cascade Christian.
“We don’t even have a track (on campus) so finishing second overall is pretty amazing,” Salang said.