CRESWELL – What a proud feeling, to cross the Finnish line together. 

“Super excited to participate,” Creswell Middle School Principal Julie Johansen said a few moments after the CMS track & field team ran a mile that they’ll always remember. They were one of about 200 groups from around the country chosen to be a part of the World Wide Welcome Youth Relay, a prelude of events leading up to the World Athletics Championships at Eugene’s Hayward Field.

Bob Williams / Chronicle photo - Teachers and staff show their support from the sidelines.

“They have a website where you can go on ‘Making Tracks’ and get lesson plans and activities, so we’ve applied to have the world championship mascot visit our school. There’s also a ‘Read-athlon,’ which kicked off (Monday), where local schools can track all of their reading. This summer, our summer theme will be around the world championships, and we’ve applied to take our group to Hayward Field for the event, so we have our fingers crossed.”

Creswell is hosting Finland’s national team for the July 15-24 event. Johansen said a welcome party is tentatively scheduled for July 8. 

Bob Williams/Chronicle photo - Students at Creswell Middle School cheer on Tripp Johansen as he crosses the finish line during Monday’s festivities.

Johansen also gave a big shout-out to longtime track and field coaches Kara Freske, and Kendra Anderson. 

There are 40 kids running track this season, and they all were given a chance to be a part of the relay. So every runner basically ran 50 meters before passing the baton, and they finished their mile in 4:15. 

“Mrs. Freske teaches math and Mrs. Anderson mainly teaches social studies,” Johansen said.  

Avery Dodsen takes her mark for the relay Monday afternoon.

“There was not one track meet that did not have rain, cold, fog … we even had hail … so just toughing it out with these teens and pre-teens, they did a great job.” 

Since Creswell Middle School is paired with Finland, as part of the Youth Relay, all of its runners wore T-shirts with a Finnish flag – compliments of Dr. Lonn Robertson, retired dentist and local running trainer – and got to pass the customized Oregon 22 baton to their teammates.

Bob Williams / Chronicle photo - Participants in the “Making Tracks” program show their enthusiasm for the Finnish Athletics Team and world championships.

They were cheered on by Mayor Dave Stram as the Creswell Pep Band played music to inspire the runners. 

“There’s concern among some folks about where the funding is coming from,” Robertson said. “It’s a private group of community members raising money from private individuals and companies to fund it, and the school is leasing the facility to the Finland team.” 

Bob Williams / Chronicle photo -Jill Strader, left, and Jehnna Carson take a moment to breath, and smile.

Robertson added that the community support has been great, from the Emerald Valley caterers, to Sanipac, to a host of other folks who enjoy getting behind a worthy cause!

“We’re getting close to being fully funded now,” Robertson said. “We won’t need to do much more fund-raising. The community has been great.”

He said some of that funding will go to improve the facilities for the discus-throwing and shot put-throwing areas.

Bob Williams / Chronicle photo - Runners are in classic form during the relay races.