Jonathan Lafler took first place at The Nike Prenational Danner Invitational at the Portland Meadows on Sat 9/29
Jonoahan Lafler is one of the main players in one of the largest groups of state ranked contenders to gather in the Washington State HS distance areana, in a while. He put his names in lights and is now at the top of an ever surprising group of athletes, any one of whom at any race seems to have the right stuff to serve a victory.
The order of the day at the last big invites,"Do Not underestimate your competition. For those who had, victory had been snatched away, typically in hair raising sprintouts in the last 5 yards.
This drama makes for great fan appeal but has become a stressed filled, at times dissapointing and at times reaffirming showdown for the athletes in the firing line.
Jonathan came on early and fast as a Track and XC force, running for Tahoma High School since his freshman year.
Who out there would have not suspected this weekends showing, having had the chance to witness Jonathan’s freshman posting of 15:51 at American Lake.
It appears that Jonathan Lafler has been preparing for this race and this year for the past 3 years.
This is not a story of a miraculous sub 16 min race by a Junior year. Soccer player who just happened to stumble on the XC team practicing.
It is not a story of an accidental athlete who just found something he was good at.
This is a story of a determined young athlete, aware of his ability and potential from the start, who is fortunate enough to find the right coach on the right team at the right time.
Jonathan seems to l have learned all the rights stuff critical to winning his race on Saturday.
He has ran against enough talent, and made enough wrong and right choices in high power races to provide him with the perfect mix of keen race guts, instinct and finesse to win his race on Saturday.
So what exactly does it take to get to starting line of this race and cross the finish line ahead of every other person good enough to show up there.
Well for starters the seed for success was planted and cultivated 3 years earlier. Jonathan was aware enough to recognize his path and potential.
His coach, Gary Conner was aware enough to encourage the talented freshman with good work and good plans.
Jonathan has run against the best and near best in the big races for the past 6 seasons of track and Cross Country.
Jonathan does his homework, he was aware enough of his path that he studied the good runners on his radar screen even before they were on a screen. He knew enough to keenly observe Charles White of Cherry Creek HS, CO, and Michael Chinchar battle it out at Aracadia last year, Michael Chinchar was a strong runner and an accomplished finisher, he possessed superior back race speed and knew how to use it. In spite of this, Charles White just about took him down. Had he moved a split second sooner in the last 100 yards of the Arcadia duel, Michael would have run out of dirt before Charles had him.
Jonathan saw all this, and stored it for a later time, who knew, A power runner from Colorado, hmm. Perhaps, who knows?
Jonathan also was aware of Charles White’s 4:09 mile times And Mac Fleet’s of University City, Ca, 4:08 time.
Jonathan clocked at best a 4:15, a respectable time but the 4:09 world is a whole different level of speed!
Jonathan knew all of this and stored it away, he might need it someday.
He also knew that Walter Shafer was a great team mate of Charles’ on a great team. Walter was typically a great enough teammate to be a great wing man to Charles in many past races.
2 days before the great race.
Coach Conner says to Jonathan in a direct and frank shorthand so common between a coach and his athlete, "You are going to win this race"
With the right athlete and the right coach, that is all it takes.
Immediately Jonathan is in the right frame of mind to do the deed. In a brilliant combination of knowing what to expect from an athlete and how to make him understand that he is capable of that expectation, Coach Danner opened the doors to the finsh line and then let last 3 years of work and preparation take it’s course.
To the race:
The race starts and Jonathan, Mac, Charles and Walter are togetter in a deliberate but respectful pack with 4 other runners at the front of the race.
This was an important time to size up the fit of the runners, see if they preceed their reputation and get a feel for how the race needs to be played out.
At about 1.5 miles Jonathan pushed the crowd. Mac and Charles move with him and now 3 were at the front. Walter is close enough to matter.
Jonathan knows a lot about these 4 guys. He did his homework.
He knows they can out sprint him, he knows at least one showdown Charles was in, at high profile Arcadia. He knows that not only was Michael faster than him , but that Charles could have beaten him had he moved a bit sooner into the final assault.
He also knows that Mac could out sprint both of them and that the always reliable Walter Shafer was positioning himself as wing man once again settling next to Charles.
How much did Charles know about him, he was aware that he was Michael main competition last season.
Was this going to turn into a race against 2 wills?
Or even 3?
I recall the 2003 State meet where David Kinsella of Inglmoore battled the Mead Duo of Laef Barnes and Evan Garber to a broiling 15:24 finish. David needed to battle both Laef and Evan and in the end a tactical double teaming was his demise. Evan 15:24, David 15:24, Laef 15:25
By 1000 yards out Jonathan knew he needed to do something, if theses guys knew anything about him, he needed to shake them up and lay down the law. He moved again. This time he laid out a firm 20 yard lead that looked like it could hold.
A small window was open, by 500 yds out Charles moved,
Walter dropped back, Max moved up and both made a desperate, exciting and possible attainable assault on Jonathan and the shrinking 20 yard gap.
This time it was Charles White who ran out of dirt. In the last 500 yards he turned a 20 yard gap inot only 3 seconds. If the race was 10 feet longer he could have changed things.
At the finish line Jonathan Lafler turned around from his 15:26.55 finish expecting to see Charles White 100 yards behind him, that is how focused and determined he was in the final push.
Instead, he nearly tripped over him, stumbling barely 3 seconds behind.
It became apparent at that instant. Jonathan figured out the exact split second to make his move, close enough for him to out finish a superior sprinter but far enough away to trigger just a split second of delay from that same sprinter.
This race was not won in 15:26, or one day or even 2 day previous when his coach told him to win it, it was one in the last 3 years of keen observation, honed race skills, pure guts and instincts of a determined young athlete who was fortunate enough to see his place in his world.
Jonathan Lafler is a Senior at Tahoma HS
Jonathan has competed at the State track meet for the past 3 years
he has competed in the State XC meet for the past 3 years and has ran at BorderClash 2 times.