Race with a purpose: A high school junior recounts his epic journey

HoodToCoastPicFlash Jump

From left to right: Sidney Vinson, Bradley Conley, Clare Zaytoun, Caroline Christman (in black jacket), Bailey McNeil (in teal jacket), Pearce Sanders (behind Bailey), Johnny Isley (in front), Grace Schmalz, Ben Kasierski, Brett Haensel (in blue jacket), Anna Collawn, and Jaxson Stocks; Courtesy Brett Haensel

by Brett Haensel

I woke up at 4 a.m. on August 27 more excited than nervous: Unlike my 11 teammates, this was not my first rodeo. This was my second year participating in the 198-mile Hood to Coast Relay Race in Portland, Ore., and despite the early wake-up, I was energized. I knew what lay ahead of me. For my entire team, a group of Ravenscroft juniors and seniors called Ravens in the Hood, the race was the culmination of an entire summer of training and fundraising. Countless miles had been run and countless letters written, and it was finally time for all of that hard work to pay off in a nearly 200-mile run from the top of Mt. Hood (11,000 miles above sea level) to the coast at Seaside, Ore.

Anticipation aside, the most significant part of the Hood to Coast Relay, to me, was the fundraising. My own family has been affected by cancer, so I know that the $42,103 my team had already raised for the American Cancer Society with our run meant far more in the grand scheme of things than a group of high school kids going to Oregon and running 15 to 20 miles each.

After a day full of plane rides, we finally arrived in Portland and ate at Shari’s Cafe and Pies, as we had the previous year. Of the more than 1,000 teams that participated, we represented the only high school team in the country to have completed this endurance race. To take our minds off of the daunting journey, we visited Multnomah Falls and jumped into the Hood River as a team. My dad, who helped make our trip possible, encouraged us to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the enormous day to come.

The next day, we were up at 7 a.m. to decorate the two vans where we’d spend much of the next 27 hours, and split up into groups of six according to the leg each team member would run. Then, both vans headed up to the top of Mount Hood. Our 11:30 a.m. start time loomed.

The atmosphere at the top of the mountain is an experience unlike any other. Like the year before, there was an abundance of nervous energy among all of the teams. The realization that 198 miles of running laid ahead of us began to set in. As the youngest team in the entire race, we had by far the most energy, bouncing up and down and yelling like the teenagers we are. We counted down the final 10 seconds, and then our Leg One runner, Caroline Christman, was off down the mountain.

Every runner excelled, and we beat our expected time by over an hour; however, it did not come without hardship. We met 40 MPH winds and heavy rain along the way, but it was not enough to deter us from getting to Seaside. Van two arrived at the beach at 2:31 p.m. – 27 hours, 1 minute, and 30 seconds after we started at the top of Mount Hood. Though everyone was sore and exhausted, we had successfully completed the experience and challenge of a lifetime.

Since 2010, a group of Ravenscroft juniors and seniors has trained to run the Hood to Coast relay race. Collectively, the teams have raised almost $300,000 for the American Cancer Society. Each year, the team captain role is passed down; 17-year-old junior Brett Haensel co-captained this year’s team. A cross country and track runner, he ran 50 miles per week throughout the summer to prepare for the race.