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Track: Keith climbs to the top

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

CdM senior distance runner, a rock climber, recovered to win the 3,200 meters at the OC Championships last week.

May 01, 2014|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Don Leach, Daily…)

Spencer Keith used to be a serious rock climber. With no rock climbing team at Corona del Mar High, Keith ran.

Three years ago, Keith joined the boys' cross-country and track and field teams at school. During the first two seasons, he still found time for his first passion. Coach Bill Sumner caught wind of the rock climbing. In the past, Sumner, in his 31st year at CdM, has had runners rock climb recreationally.

Sumner, who is 66, has seen a lot during his life. Not much fazes him. When Sumner saw pictures of Keith, his jaw dropped.

"He's upside down climbing on a rock, getting to the top of it," Sumner said. "I thought he was rock climbing, going down to Big Corona. He went to like the Elk [Mountains in Colorado]. He rock climbs at a high level. The stuff that he does is really risky. He just doesn't go out like these guys go to the gym and climb up the side of the wall. He's climbing a cliff. He's climbing upside down on some of this stuff. I told him, 'You can't be rock climbing. You got to train, dude.'"

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Keith heeded Sumner's advice. The only climbing the senior does now is to the top of the 3,200-meter race. The event is Keith's favorite and he won it at the Orange County Championships on Saturday.

Before the senior recorded a personal-best time of 9 minutes, 16.75 seconds, Keith fell hard at the meet at Mission Viejo High. Five hours earlier, he crashed in the 1,600-seeded race. With less than a lap to go, and Keith in fifth place, a competitor kicked him in the left calf and down he went.

Keith had never fallen before while on the track. He knows any fall, whether climbing or running isn't good. Keith wasted little time, popping up after a double roll.

Four seconds were lost and his place in the race. All the while, Sumner had no idea.

"All of a sudden they were in the last lap, and I go, 'He's still running fast!'" Sumner said, "and then somebody says, 'He's in 14th place!' I go, 'What? How did he get in 14th place? What happened?' Everybody around me, they didn't know. Somebody said, 'Did you see him go down?'"

Sumner missed the spill, but Keith's reminded him of the one Sumner took in the 1,600 when he was in high school at Baldwin Park. At Mt. San Antonio College, back when it used to have sprinklers around the whole side, someone shoved Sumner and he stepped on a water pipe and fell over.

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