SPRINGFIELD – Thurston track and field standout Breanna Raven spent more time coaching than competing during her team’s meet against Springfield High last Wednesday. Although no one was complaining.
Raven, nursing an illness, needed only one attempt in both the triple- and long-jump event to take first place with jumps of 37 feet, 5 inches in the triple and 17 feet, 5 inches in long.
“That’s when I kind of take that step of being team captain, and I’m able to help others do their events,” Raven said. “I like it when I see them get marks and I’m like, ‘I helped them get there.’”
On Wednesday, she guided teammates Savannah Efseaff and Ella Dzmura, carefully watching them run through the jumping events.
“What should I do?” Efseaff asked Raven after a warm-up that didn’t go as she hoped.
“Come up one foot and switch your feet when you’re starting,” Raven told Efseaff.
Efseaff tried again.
“Okay, now just move back four inches,” Raven said. “Wait, actually, three.”
See, Raven’s a perfectionist, almost too a fault. Each facet she adds to her approach she also imparts to her teammates. That precision, combined with her willingness to help, makes her a valuable member of Thurston’s track and field team.
It has its downsides, though. She can be her hershest critic, struggling at times to view mistakes as learning opportunities. In fact, it wasn’t until the state championship meet during her junior year that she first fouled on a jump.
As important as it is to fine tune those slight margins that separate Raven – Oregon’s 5A state leader in the long jump, triple jump and 200 meter – from her opponents; she’s had to learn to rationalize her failures to improve her game.
That’s why when she finally did foul at the state championships last May, it warranted the loudest applause from head coach John Gillespie.
“He literally jumped out of his seat in the stands and started cheering,” Raven said. “Everyone was really confused because I didn’t get a mark and, usually, that’s a bad thing.”
Prior to the state meet, Gillespie learned from Raven’s mom, Naomi, that Raven was obsessive over not letting herself foul, he said. Getting her to do so became his goal
“You’ve got to challenge your limits. Now she’s a better jumper because of that,” Gillespie said.
After the foul, Raven won the triple jump at state, jumping 37-feet, 5-inches.
It wasn’t the first time Raven had been challenged to test her boundaries.
Naomi Raven remembers when her daughter was scared to break the rules that were set at her elementary school.
“She and my husband (Peter) went to get ice cream and she was sick to her stomach about some of the rules at school,” Naomi said. “Like, ‘What if I don’t stand in the line the right way? Or, what if I get a red star? What if I forget my homework?’ We needed to teach her that rules are important, but you also have to learn some flexibility.”
Peter’s solution was to take his daughter to the playground on a Saturday morning when it was empty.
“I want you to break every playground rule,” he told Breanna. “You’re doing it right now.”
She wasn’t having it. As a kid, following rules defined her.
Peter kept pushing her to get out of her comfort zone. She finally gave in.
“It’s been something that I think we’ve intentionally been aware of for a long time,” Naomi said. “I mean we’re certainly not trying to teach her to break rules. We were trying to teach her the mindset that mistakes are good.”
The results speak for themselves.
On Wednesday, it resulted in four first-place finishes – along with the triple and long jump, Raven won the 200-meter and anchored the 4×100-meter relay. It also helped her earn multiple personal bests on April 21 at the John Oliver Invitational. She jumped 37-feet, 9-inches in the triple; 18-feet, 3 inches in the long jump; and ran the 100-meter in 12.55 seconds.
Despite dealing with that same illness, she won athlete of the meet.
Raven’s headed to Utah State next year.
“They want me to compete in the heptathlon,” Raven said. It’s a seven-part competition that includes events she has little experience in, such as the 100-meter hurdles, shot put and javelin.
“I’m used to long jump and triple jump, which means you jump high and you jump far,” Raven said. “In hurdling, you don’t jump over them, you run over them. It’s a whole different technique and form.”
It’s a process that no doubt will involve its fair share of blunders. And like her parents and coach taught her, it’s part of the process.