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Month: April 2014

Boys win division at Willamette Falls Invite

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School boys varsity track and field team wasted little time in making a statement this season.

The Celtic boys won the the big-school division of the Willamette Falls Invitational on Saturday, April 12.

“Especially in the sprinters, we have a lot of depth,” said senior Garrett Hittner. “We’ve got Kyle Torres, Brett Hildebrand, Anthony Nguyen and Austin Brown in the varsity team, but we’ve also got a lot of young runners who know what they are doing.”

At the invite, Torres won the 200 and 400 meter sprints in 22.81 and 51.14, respectively; Daniel Brattain won the 110 hurdles in 14.81, the 300 hurdles in 39.91 and the pole vault clearing 13-00; and Brown, Torres, Nguyen, and Hittner won the 4×100 relay in 43.15.

“It was kind of a goal for the guys to win one of the invites this season. It’s been a long time since they have and you could tell just by watching them how much they wanted it,” said Frank Gauntz, McNary head coach.

While Brattain is no stranger to the top spots in hurdling events (he owns the school and district records in the 110), he’s added the pole vault to his repertoire this season at McNary. He’s not new to the event, however. During summer breaks, the senior competes in decathlons. His low mark the season thus far is where many student athletes finish their careers in the event.

“I have a lot of goals this season,” Brattain said. “I want to get some more school records, but I want to leave my mark on the team, to be the guy that everyone points to when they say, ‘This is how you do it.’”

On the girls side of the invite, McNary landed in 18th place. Daysha Simms won the 400 meter in 58.86. Simms holds the school and district record in the race, but she’s hoping to improve her time again this year.

“If I don’t, I’m going to be upset,” she said. “Mostly, I just want to run fast and go top three at state.”

The varsity track and field teams both notched wins over the McKay High School Royal Scots Wednesday, April 9.

The boys took their side of the meet with a final score of 71-65. The girls won 67-60.

In boys events, winners were: Hittner in the 100 and 400 meter races with times of 11.37 and 23.23, respectively; Adrian Fernandez in the 1,500 meter in 4:24.83; Chance Clark in the 3,000 meter in 11:06.47; Brattain in the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.27; Sky Cater in the 300 hurdles in 44.98; Nguyen, Brown, Torres and Hittner in 43.33; Perry Groves in the high jump clearing 6-00; and Brattain in the pole vault clearing 13-00.

Hittner said he’d like to take district titles in the 100 and 200 meters, but the sprinters’ focus is the relays.

“We think we can take both races with the talent we’ve got,” Hittner said.

The Lady Celts posted winning performances in all but a few events. Podium toppers were:  Simms in the 100 and 200 meter races with times of 12.84 and 26.05, respectively; Danielle Duran

in the 400 meter in 1:04.85; Marisa McGrath in the 3,000 meter in 14:01.13; River Harri in the high hurdles in 18.78, and low hurdles in 52.66;  Ashlee Koenig, Simms, Alyssa Looney and Duran in the 4×100 relay in 53.47; Duran, Sydney Hunter, Hali Thurston and Simms in the 4×400 relay; Kyla Duncan in the javelin with a mark of 95-00; Jasmine Ernest in the discus with a mark of 67-03; Duncan in the javelin with a heave of 111-00; Amanda Vergara in the pole vault clearing 7-00; and Koenig in the long and triple jumps with marks of 15-10 and 30-03, respectively.

Gauntz said the addition of Looney to the 4×100 relay team has benefitted the team greatly, but that a lot of younger athletes are stepping up to varsity challenges.

“We expected big things out of them this season, but they are the ones living up to it,” Gauntz said.

Simms said the both teams are benefitting from recruitment efforts led by the upperclassmen.

“We brought in a lot of sophomores and freshmen and they’re doing great. We’ve had great leaders stepping up this season, and I know our new athletes are going to be great leaders when the time comes,” she said.

Girls tie Vikings, fall to Titans on courts

Lady Celt Sami Trowbridge chases down a volley in competition with West Salem High School last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Lady Celt Sami Trowbridge chases down a volley in competition with West Salem High School last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

While neither of the McNary High School girls varsity tennis team’s matches last week were wins, the Lady Celts turned in a number performances that bode well for the future.

The Celts tied North Salem High School 4-4 and lost to West Salem High School 5-3.

Playing the lead singles for McNary, junior Sandy Childress beat North’s Maribel Ocampo in two sets, 6-4 and 7-6 (7-3).

“She did a fantastic job of starting us off right and getting us that win that helps us play really well,” said Mark Kohley, McNary head coach.

Junior Rachel Morrow followed suit at No. 2 singles with a win in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-4. Taslima Sidhu won in the No. 3 spot with set scores of 6-3 and 6-1.

Katie Stignei and Megan Thompson, the team’s only seniors, took the only win in singles matches with scores of 6-2 and 6-0. Ariana Neads and Sami Trowbridge battled to three sets with their Viking opponents, 2-6, 7-5 and 6-2, but ended up with a loss.

“There was a difference in abilities and rather than forcing them to play our game, which would have been more aggressive. We played down, and played down a lot,” Neads said.

Childress and Morrow both scored their second wins of the week in the match with West. Childress’s match ended quickly in sets of 6-0 and 6-2. Morrow had more of a battle, 7-5 and 6-3.

“Rachel wasn’t too crazy about playing singles this year, but she’s off to a great start and Sandy has been offering her lots of help,” Kohley said. “Rachel stands a good chance of sneaking up on some people if she keeps progressing.”

Up against a West doubles team that went to state last year, Stignei and Thompson fell in sets of 7-5 and 6-3, but Kohley said there was a moral victory to be had.

“That’s a tough team to draw and they competed strong throughout the match,” he said.

Neads and Trowbridge won in three sets after a stumble in the second, 6-1, 1-6 and 6-1.

“We played a lot better and more strategically, and kept that going,” Neads said.

Trowbridge said good service and communication saw the pair through to the end.

As far as improvement in the coming weeks, Kohley said he’d like to see the younger players moving along more quickly.

“We’ve been kind of slow to grow, and these girls are capable of moving faster,” he said.

Trowbridge said the juniors and seniors on the team are invested in helping them along.

“It can be tough to remember that we started from the same place, but we can help them by doing drills with them and getting outside of our usual practice partners. A lot of them are already progressing well,” Trowbridge said.

Lady Celts shut out in CVC opener

McNary’s Kinsey McNaught sends a pop fly to left field and just outside the foul line in the contest with West Salem High School Tuesday, April 15. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary’s Kinsey McNaught sends a pop fly to left field and just outside the foul line in the contest with West Salem High School Tuesday, April 15. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity softball team drew two tough teams in succession last week and chalked up a pair of losses as both games unspooled in a single inning.

Tough pitching and a 10-run fourth inning on the part of the South Salem High School Saxons led to a 12-0 loss for the McNary in its league-opening contest.

“It felt like the errors were compounded in that one inning. We kept making little mental errors, but we can eliminate those,” said Lady Celt Madi Oliver.

The Lady Celt’s Hannah Carr was the only batter to get a hit off South’s Katie Donovan. The Saxons made their run in the fourth inning by stringing together hits and taking advantage of McNary’s defensive errors.

“Our defense is usually fine, but in both games last week we had one inning that messed up the whole game,” said McNary junior Megan Ulrey.

It was an uncharacteristic off-game by the Celtic line-up, but the Saxons are the only team in the Oregon School Activities Association 6A classification hanging onto an unblemished record (9-0).

“I think we got a little too into our heads at the plate,” Ulrey said. “We need to work on having a plan every time we go up to bat.”

The battle for the Central Valley Conference is likely to be a heated one this season. The CVC has three-Top 10 teams in the latest rankings: South, Sprague High School (No. 5) and McNary (No. 8).

Prior to the contest with South, McNary faced No. 3 Tualatin High School Wednesday, April 9. The Keizer team lost 8-1 after a breakout five-run second inning by Timberwolves.

The Lady Celts’ only run came on a Carr single that scored senior Dani Saunders from third base. Carr led the team at the plate going 2 for 3.

Ulrey was pulled from the circle in the second inning making way for Oliver. Oliver closed out the game with four hits and three walks.

Last week might have been a stumble, but Ulrey knew the team could bounce back.

“Once we get back to hitting everything seems to go well,” she said.

Boys escape Saxons on strong defense, one run

Celtic Jordan Barchus gets an out at third base and tries for a double play at first in McNary’s game with Canby High School Wednesday, April 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Celtic Jordan Barchus gets an out at third base and tries for a double play at first in McNary’s game with Canby High School Wednesday, April 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity baseball team was likely thanking its lucky stars for pitchers after the team’s Central Valley Conference opener Friday, April 11.

The Celtics won 1-0. While junior Mickey Walker kept the Saxons at bay from the mound, McNary scored the only run of the game on a wild pitch by South’s Sam Tweedt.

“Any time you can get a win against a pitcher like Sam Tweedt, you’ve got to be happy,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach. “But we were under duress a number of times and managed to get out of jams.”

The critical inning for the Keizer team was the fifth. Jacob Wood led off at the plate with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly by Matt Aguilar. Walker struck out swinging on the next at bat, but Wood took third and then made it home on two wild pitches by Tweedt.

On the defensive side of the game, the Celts had three double plays that proved crucial, Keeker said.

McNary had only three hits in the game off the bats of Wood, Tim Hays and Hayden Gosling.

“It was hard to see it in the stats, but we were battling at the plate and ratcheting up Tweedt’s pitch count,” Hays said.

The team had 14 strikeouts. Walker allowed just two hits with five strikeouts in six-and-a-third innings pitched. He had 11 first-pitch strikes from the bump.

The game ended on a diving catch by Jordan Barchus, who also caught a runner off third base.

Keeker said the team is still struggling with a consistent mental approach to the game. The results have been moments of greatness followed by frustration.

“The consistency comes from flushing the bad things that happen. If you go up to the plate and you’ve struck out twice, you have to approach it like it’s your first at bat and your first swing,” said Wood. “You just have to learn from everything else.”

Lagging offense led to a 6-1 loss for the Celtics in their last preseason game against Canby High School Wednesday, April 9.

“Our energy just wasn’t very good, we came out flat,” Hays said.

Canby had a 1-0 lead when the Celts stepped back to the dish in the bottom of the third inning. Suing was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a hard grounder by Walker that went back to the pitcher. Suing scored on a single by Jordan Barchus.

McNary rarely threatened for the remainder of the game. Canby added to its lead with a pair of two-run innings in the sixth and seventh.

“We have to have a better approach at the plate,” Wood said. “We need to have everyone focusing on the game and watching the pitcher way before we go up to bat.”

Suing led at the plate going 2 for 2. Barchus went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Travis Klampe pitched five innings for McNary allowing three hits and four runs. Suing closed out the game from the mound allowing three hits and two runs in two innings.

REI set to open May 2

Finishing touches are being done at the REI building in Keizer Station, set to open in early May. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Finishing touches are being done at the REI building in Keizer Station, set to open in early May. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Looking for new outdoor gear in Keizer?

If so, here’s some good news: the REI store in Keizer Station is about to open.

Washington-based REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) already has several stores in the region but none in the Salem-Keizer market. That will change early next month as Salem REI opens at 6035 Ulali Drive NE, the former Circuit City building.

“The opening date is May 2 and we will have a variety of grand opening activities May 2 to 4,” said Bethany Hawley, senior public affairs associate with REI.

Circuit City closed its store in March 2009. Since January 2010, the Keizer Soccer Club had been using the building as the Futsal Center, with the understanding they would leave if a new tenant came in.

That finally happened last fall, as REI submitted plans to convert the building.

The conversion included adding 1,735 square feet to the back of the building, making it 22,165 square feet total.

A VIP community reception is taking place at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 1, with the public opening the next day. Juan Quintero will be the store manager.

“We are thrilled to open a store in Salem and look forward to partnering with your community,” Quintero and REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said in a statement.

REI is a retail cooperative founded in 1938. The Keizer Station store will have gear and clothing for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, travel and more. It will also have a bike shop, with a full range of services.

For more information on the store and upcoming events, visit www.rei.com/salem.

With the opening at Keizer Station, REI will have five locations in the greater Portland area, with the next closest being in Tigard.

City leaders have been waiting for the opening since the news came out last October.

“This is certainly not only good, but it shows some panache,” Keizer mayor Lore Christopher said at the time. “This is something we always wanted Keizer Station to do. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Prep work for any Big Toy site

File photo
File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Regardless of where The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park ends up going, the site will need work done before the community build.

The play structure is set to be built Sept. 17 to 21, but prep work will need to be done prior to that.

The question which has come up, including at the most recent Community Build Task Force meeting, is just when that prep work would need to be started.

For months, Site 1 – or Area B, or the tree site – between the amphitheater and the boat ramp has been identified as the location. Since late January, however, a site in the orchards along Chemawa Road and Walsh Way has been championed by Mayor Lore Christopher.

In order for the site along Chemawa to be used, trees would have to be taken down. Then again, Site 1 would have to be leveled in order to be used.

“There has been a lot of discussion about resiting the play structure,” Carol Doerfler said at this month’s CBTF meeting. “My question is, what is your drop dead date for having to be on it?”

Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the project, had a quick answer for when prep work would have to be started.

“July 1,” Caillier said. “If we’re moving trees, we have to be on it by July 1.”

Caillier touched on the topic again later in the meeting.

“I’m not all that concerned where the toy is going to be,” he said. “I’m more concerned about can we get there by July 1? We’re going to have to bring dirt in wherever we are. Area B will have to have fill as well.”

While a motion made by the Keizer Planning Commission last week (see related story, page 1) would seem to greatly impact the use of an orchard site, Caillier pointed to work that has to be done anywhere, with assistance from a crew assembled by Clint Holland.

“In talking with Clint and others, we came up with having to be on (Site 1) no later than August 1,” Caillier said. “That is the last day to get there. It would be nice to get on the site earlier. At either site you would have to have fill to make it grade, especially up above (by Chemawa). With the other site, as you go further south there is a slope. On the north end, there is a dike there. You can’t make it any steeper. We will need fill on the south end. We would take it down to an appropriate grade. We can do that in 30 days, based on Clint’s crew.”

Caillier said the orchard site would take an additional month of time to get ready.

“Using the orchard site requires the removal of trees, more soil to be brought in and compaction, more than the big tree site,” he said. “With that one, you still need to bring in dirt.”

At the orchard site, Caillier noted it’s more than just clearing enough space for the structure.

“You don’t just take trees out for the shape of the toy,” he said. “You also have to go 20 feet out around the edge. No matter what ground cover we choose, we don’t want a bunch of leaves falling into it.”

Taking out the trees could be done with either bulldozers or a machine with a hydraulic thumb, which Caillier said would be like a larger version of pulling a weed out of a garden.

“Using the machine is the least intrusive,” Caillier said. “With any tree removal, you try to get as much biomass out of the ground as possible.”

In essence, Caillier believes Holland and Co. will be ready once given the green light to move forward.

“We are prepared for either contingency,” Caillier said. “We have, in some detail, talked about either site and how we’d do it. We can get going on it either way, but I’d rather do it leisurely.”

“Stone Cold” by C.J. Box

Stone-Cold

“Stone Cold” by C.J. Box

c.2014, Putnam
$26.95 / $31.00 Canada
371 pages

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Sometimes, you just can’t fit in.

You stick out like a sore thumb, totally unable to melt into the crowd. You feel like you have a neon sign across your shoulders; one that says “I’M NEW!”

Yeah, you’re self-conscious then but, if you’re Game Warden Joe Pickett, you get used to it. And yet, as in the new book “Stone Cold” by C.J. Box, standing out could get a man killed.

Anyone who’d seen Nate Romanowski on that nearly-moonless night would’ve instantly known he was a pro.

Romanowski had studied the Scoggins compound, he knew how to get inside, and he knew Henry Scoggins was a jerk, that nobody would really miss him. Nate knew where all the security weaknesses and surveillance cameras were – except one. So when Joe Pickett was shown trail-cam video weeks later and he spotted his friend Nate dragging something, he knew that trouble was mountain-high.

For some time, the Feds had been nosing around northeastern Wyoming, where folks kept mostly to themselves. In that atmosphere of solitude lived a certain Wolfgang Templeton, a man who owned half the county and most of the people in it, and whose name repeatedly rose during investigations of high-profile disappearances, including that of Scoggins. Was it just coincidence?

With a ruse of “helping” Medicine Wheel County Game Warden Jim Latta with a project, Pickett headed for the corner of the state, noting the beautiful land and the poverty of its people. Pickett had promised his wife that he’d avoid danger, but keeping safe wouldn’t be easy when there were so many questions.

Why, for instance, did Latta seem afraid of the county’s judge? Why did he look the other way while a couple of Templeton employees poached wild game at will?  Who was the cold-eyed dandy on Templeton’s ranch? And why did everybody seem to know where Pickett was going, even before he got there?

Perhaps most vexing of all was the question of Pickett’s friend Nate, and Nate’s covert activities. It pained Pickett to imagine how Nate was involved – although not as much as it would hurt if he kept snooping…

Reading parts of “Stone Cold” is somewhat like going on a scenic vacation that takes a bad turn – in a good way.

Author C.J. Box lets his main character, Joe Pickett, savor the land, and it’s gorgeous. We’re treated to descriptive images of colorful mountains and harsh beauty, where even scrub takes on a relaxing aura and invites us to linger just a bit. It’s easy, therefore, to be lulled into forgetting exactly what you’ve got in your hands.

But then Box brings us abruptly back to his novel, in which few can be trusted and everything seems off. We’re soothed, then we’re hit with an uppercut of thriller that makes us reel – and makes us want more.

This novel is part of a series but can definitely be read by itself, so if you’re in need of a hot mystery, get this. You won’t be sorry because, for you, “Stone Cold” fits.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Another possible new site for Big Toy

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The number of possible sites for The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park has grown again.

The latest was presented by Keizer City Councilor Jim Taylor to a small group last Wednesday, April 9.

It was mentioned last week at the council meeting there were six possible sites for the community build play structure, which will be built Sept. 17 to 21. The Site 1 location north of the boat ramp and southeast of the amphitheater – also referred to as Area B, or the tree site – has been the top choice most of the time, but in January Mayor Lore Christopher championed the idea of a site in the orchards along Chemawa Road, at the front of the park along Walsh Way.

The site Taylor proposed last week would still be in the orchards, but more into the park. Taylor showed the new site to Christopher, Clint Holland, Brandon Smith, Richard Walsh and David Louden.

“We were just looking around, trying to find something everyone likes,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we ever will. This is right across from the Charge house. Parking is across from the dog park. There will be a new parking lot, but not a new road. It’s in a corner. It’s not going to mess up the rest of the orchard. It would be right in the middle of the park, so it can be accessed from everywhere.

“It’s bigger, so you can make (the toy) as big as you want,” he added. “You’re not constricted by size, plus you can put parking in there. It’s closer to everything in there now. It’s real pretty. You’re going to be able to see it pretty good. You’re going to come into the park and will see it right off.”

Taylor emphasized he came up with the idea for the site.

“I was just trying to come up with an alternative,” he said. “If we have just the tree spot, then we’re not giving people an option. Now at least you have a choice. I just felt there weren’t many people liking the Chemawa Road site. I walked around and looked and decided this is a next best option. We just want to give people options. If it was up to me, I would put it there.”

Taylor anticipates having a community forum to discuss locations.

“What we want to do, we will have a big community forum and everyone will decide what they like,” Taylor said. “I don’t know when that will be, probably late May. We won’t put it where people don’t want it. I think we’ll know in this big community meeting. We’ll know what the majority wants and that’s where it will go.”

Fellow councilor Marlene Quinn, chair of the Community Build Task Force, agreed there will likely be a May community forum, but didn’t have an exact date yet.

“There’s no timeline yet, but stay tuned for that,” Quinn said. “I’ll have a timeline for you shortly, I promise. I don’t want it to look like we’re doing this and we told Jim to do this, because that’s not the case. This is a community project. The community needs to weigh in on every aspect of this project. The location, master plan, everything.”

Quinn emphasized Taylor came up with the idea for the site himself.

“It’s not the task force’s suggestion,” Quinn said. “It has not been approved by anybody. Have some people looked at it? Yes. Have I? No, because I think right now the process needs to be vetted in the community via the master plan.”

Holland said the site is being looked at as a compromise.

“I’m not in favor of a compromise,” Holland said. “I’m in favor of putting the toy in the best place. A lot of people are.”

Holland noted pros and cons as compared to the site along Chemawa Road.

“You lose the visibility, but you still have problems with pollens,” Holland said. “It’s more in the middle of the orchards, so there’s maybe even more dust. It’s more into that park, so water is a little closer. You may be able to bring in electricity up from the amphitheater.

“My philosophy is forget the politics,” he added. “Where is the best place to build the toy? In my mind, it is still in Area B. I truly believe that. My mind is still open and I will look at this other site. But at this moment I haven’t changed my mind.”

Walsh noted there is plenty of land around the orchards to consider for placement of the Big Toy.

“The entire 28 acres is being looked at for the new toy,” Walsh said. “We are considering what possibilities might be practical in those 28 acres.”

Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the project, worries ongoing battle over sites is creating problems.

“At some point we have to fish or cut bait,” Caillier said. “We’re getting there sooner rather than later. Having a site and then not having a site, like we have here, detracts from the momentum of the project. As coordinator, that is what concerns me. I think that is a distraction in this project. A good plan executed with high levels of energy and determination is better than a perfect plan that is not timely.”

A kid, a cop, a cake

Officer Eric Jefferson with the Keizer Police Department (left) gives 5-year-old Mekhi Norman a birthday hat at his birthday party Tuesday afternoon at Keizer Community Center. After the two met about a month ago, Jefferson worked with various people to pull off the party for his new friend, who attended with mom Shauntel. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Officer Eric Jefferson with the Keizer Police Department (left) gives 5-year-old Mekhi Norman a birthday hat at his birthday party Tuesday afternoon at Keizer Community Center. After the two met about a month ago, Jefferson worked with various people to pull off the party for his new friend, who attended with mom Shauntel. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

As his birthday party continued, 5-year-old Mekhi was suddenly worried.

He saw the tears streaming down the face of his mom, Shauntel Norman.

“You happy?” Mekhi asked, concern written all over his face.

Indeed Shauntel was.

A month earlier, Shauntel and Mekhi came from a rough situation in Missouri.

“We got displaced,” Shauntel said.

It was a chance encounter that led to the blessing Tuesday at the Keizer Community Center.

“I knew about this, but I didn’t know if anyone would show up,” Shauntel said in the room filled with friends, food and gifts for Mekhi. “This is amazing.”

Last month, officer Eric Jefferson with the Keizer Police Department was leaving a call at Simonka Place, where Shauntel and Mekhi had just moved.

Mekhi came forward and introduced himself to Jefferson.

“He said, ‘I’m 4 but I have a birthday coming up, on Tax Day,’” Jefferson recalled. “I said, ‘When’s that?’ He said, ‘April 15.’”

Jefferson was quickly impressed. But more was to come.

“He’s so full of life,” the officer said. “We’ve got a connection. He asked if I wanted to come to his birthday party. When I said yes, he said, ‘OK, but you will need to change, because your uniform will scare people.’”

When Jefferson got back to the office that day, he knew what needed to be done.

“I saw the need for a 5-year-old to have a 5-year-old birthday party,” Jefferson said. “There was definitely a need. I went to Lt. (Andrew) Copeland and said here’s what we need. Copeland said, ‘Make it happen.’”

Shauntel was amazed by the fast – and tight – bond her son formed with Jefferson.

“They connected pretty quick,” she said. “Officer Jefferson adopted us into his family. His son (Alan) is Mekhi’s big brother. Mekhi calls Eric his uncle.. This is a blessing in disguise. I lost a brother, but I gained a brother.”

Wanda Blaylock with KPD helped put the room together on Tuesday at city hall.

“Officer Jefferson fell for the kid and wanted to make this day special for him,” Blaylock said. “We were told he likes dinosaurs, trucks and police officers.”

Help came from elsewhere as well.

Steve Vanderhoof, manager of the Keizer Safeway, brought cake, ice cream and pop. He stayed for the party.

“Officer Jefferson asked if we could help,” Vanderhoof said. “It’s heartwrenching what this family had to go through. It’s so great that officer Jefferson wants to break the cycle of heartbreak Mekhi has had to go through. This shows him there are good people out there and that we love him. You want to do more, but this is a good start.”

At 4 p.m., Jefferson picked up Mekhi and his mom, then brought them to the party. A round of applause broke out as Jefferson held Mekhi’s hand and walked him to his table at the front of the room.

“All of these people are here for you,” Jefferson told Mekhi before walking him around the room to meet everyone.

As Mekhi met the friends and KPD personnel in the room, Shauntel took it all in.

“I never expected it to lead to this, not at all,” she said. “I didn’t think this would happen.”

Jefferson doesn’t hide his feelings about Mekhi.

“About a month ago, I got to meet a phenomenal kid,” Jefferson said. “He’s so loving and caring, all heart. He radiates life. Mekhi embraces you. He’s infectious. He draws you in with his zest for life. This is a great experience.”

As he sat in front of a police cake with his name on it and a piece of pizza brought in by Dave Walery of Walery’s Premium Pizza, Mekhi had the type of questions one might expect from a 5-year-old.

“How did everyone get here?” he asked at one point.

Mekhi was impressed with the party.

“I like it,” he said.

While everyone munched on the pizza, Jefferson talked about the significance of the day.

“We all came together as a community to celebrate a boy we love,” Jefferson said. “This is what community is about, caring for and loving each other. We’re here for this little guy we all love.”

Lacrosse team starts 2-0 in league contests

Nick Moore (No. 4) tries to slow the pace of an opponent in the Mountain View game. (Submitted)
Nick Moore (No. 4) tries to slow the pace of an opponent in the Mountain View game. (Submitted)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity lacrosse team is 2-0 in the North Valley Conference while battling through thick and thin in its first league games.

The Celtics traded leads with the South Salem High School Saxons six times before putting the match away with an 11-9 final score on April 8. It was the first time in the five-year program the Celtics beat the Saxons at the varsity level.

“We won the ground ball battle 42-48, the six ground balls were the difference in the game. Each ground ball, which is similar to a rebound in basketball, gave us another possession and chance to get a shot on goal,” said Ryan Bowlby, McNary head coach.

McNary put up a stalwart defensive stand in the fourth quarter of the game to hold the Saxons scoreless.

Goalie Austin Fisher had three of his five saves in the fourth quarter. The Celtics took a one-point lead with two minutes left in the third quarter, and then slowed the pace of the game due to a number of injuries.

“The student athletes showed great time management skills, eating up minutes off the clock on each possession,” Bowlby said.

For the Celtics, Joseph Giblin had two goals and an assist; Preston McNeely had three goals; Isaiah Vian and David Gonzalez had two goals and two assists; Nick Moore and Hunter Rosenblatt had one goal each.

Two days later, McNary hosted West Albany High School and dealt the team a 17-1 drubbing.

“We scored in the first two minutes of the game and never looked back,” Bowlby said. “Our defense was smothering most of the game, only allowing four shots on goal.”

The Keizer team played a flawless game that saw nine players on the 25-member roster score.

McNeely had three goals and an assist; Moore had three goals; Jake Burrus had two goals and two assists; Giblin and Vian had two goals each; Cameron Engle had one goal and one assist; Rosenblatt, Gonzalez and Mike Phelps had one goal apiece.

The Celts play West Salem High School on the road Friday, April 18, and host Corvallis High School at North Salem High School, 765 14th St NE, in Salem Tuesday, April 22. Game times are 8:15 and 8:30 p.m., respectively.