Caleb Lakeman has defeated all three runners who beat him in the season-opening meet at Wilsonville. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Caleb Lakeman has defeated all three runners who beat him in the season-opening meet at Wilsonville. (Photo by Jon Olson)

Tualatin senior Caleb Lakeman may have started the season a step slow, with a fourth-place finish in the senior race at the Wilsonville Night Meet.

But he has been on a tear since, racking up three straight wins, including a course record at the prestigious Ash Creek XC Festival.

“I feel like at the 3K, I was a little scared to go out with those guys,” Lakeman said. “I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was in, so I feel like I kind of held back during the night meet. I definitely should have been up with those guys.”

Lakeman has since beaten all three runners who beat him at the season-opening Wilsonville meet.

“I think I definitely put myself out there at Ash Creek and Meriwether,” Lakeman said. “All of those meets, I have stayed patient through the whole race and then kind of let it go with 1K or 800m to go. I’ve felt super good in all the races.”

Oregon runners produced times on the track last spring that surpassed the depth of any era of high school running in state history. Lakeman is just happy to get the opportunity to compete against some of the best runners in state history.

“It’s really exciting to get to compete with those guys,” Lakeman said. “It’s really a blessing and I’m really grateful. I think people kind of underrate Oregon, it is really deep right now.”

Lakeman has twice gone sub 15-minutes for 5,000-meters, including the course record 14:58.50 at Ash Creek and 14:50.50 at Meriwether CC Classic.

“It felt amazing, that was my goal at the end of the season,” Lakeman said. “I knew I was in shape to run that fast, because I have had some pretty good workouts recently. It was just a matter of time as to when I would run it. It was very rewarding.”

Running is a family affair for Lakeman. Caleb trained all through COVID with his younger brother, Aaron, a junior at Tualatin, who was 21st at Ash Creek in 15:56.70 and 10th at Meriwether in 15:37.41. His father Dirk and Tualatin coach Andrew Bonica have been there every step.

“Me and my brother worked day in and day out with coach Bonica and my dad all through COVID,” Lakeman said. “It’s been hard, but mentally challenging and mentally strengthening.

“That’s helped me to stay up with those guys during races. I remember all the training I’ve been through. During every workout during COVID, I was just telling myself to hold on, hold on, just hang on. I’ve been repeating that in the races.”

Dirk Lakeman was part of a legendary group of runners at South Eugene high school in the late 1970s who set the 4x-mile relay national record in 1977. Dirk also held the Oregon high school mile record at 4:04.9 for 27 years until Central Catholic’s Galen Rupp broke it in 2004.

“I’ve definitely always looked up to him as a role model,” Caleb said. “It’s kind of been an incentive to try to beat his times every year. It’s been fun to know what he has run and try to beat him.”

In cross country, the races seem to get bigger and bigger each week. The biggest meet of this season looms Saturday, as the Nike Portland XC meet will be held at Blue Lake Regional Park in Fairview. Lakeman is looking forward to more competition.

“I have raced it before, but I definitely wasn't prepared for it,” Lakeman said. “I'm hoping to try to win. I have raced everyone in the state pretty much, except Michael Maiorano (South Medford senior). I know he’s in good shape. I’m hyped, really excited to race him.”