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Rising to the occasion

Limitations do not seem to apply to Rachel Haycock.

A 2005 Forest Grove High School graduate, Haycock — formerly Rachel Aina — distinguished herself in basketball, track and field, and soccer as a Viking, emerging as one of the school’s most talented athletes. But she was gifted beyond the athletic realm — seemingly at whatever she put her mind to, be that academics or music.by: COURTESY PHOTO - Rachel Aina (30) celebrates with her Forest Grove basketball teammates after a game in 2005. Aina will be inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame later this year.

While at Forest Grove, Haycock led the Vikings girls basketball program to a league title and its first-ever state playoff victory. She was also a multi-time league and state placer in track, an all-league selection in soccer and a class valedictorian.

For her all-around excellence, Haycock has been chosen as a member of this year’s class of the Forest Grove High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The six-member class, the fourth overall, will be inducted in a ceremony at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on Sept. 28.

“It feels good to feel like people remember you as somebody who worked hard and left some kind of legacy,” said Haycock, who now lives in Salt Lake City with Landon Haycock, her husband of almost two years, and teaches private violin lessons.

Haycock spent much of her young life around boys. She was the youngest of six children — not just the baby of the family but also the only girl. She also played basketball and soccer on boys teams as a kid.

“I was always wanting to do what they were doing,” Haycock recalled about her brothers. “There was a lot of competition in our house, whether it was games or running to get the mail. I enjoyed growing up with that lifestyle.”

In fact, Forest Grove track and field coach Sue Fleskes still has memories of a tiny girl sitting in the bleachers watching the Aina brothers compete in basketball and track. After all of that watching and waiting, when she finally reached high school, she quickly made a name for herself.

Haycock wasted no time as a freshman, lettering in all three of her sports. She played midfield for the soccer team and was named an honorable mention all-league selection in basketball after averaging 7.3 points per game.

Greg Evers, now the Vikings boys basketball coach, was in charge of the girls program during Haycock’s years in high school. He played her everywhere on the court over her four years and described her as a “tremendous shooter,” a player who had a quick first step, was great with her left hand, and who could shoot from mid- and long range and handle the ball.

“She’s the best player that I have coached, boys or girls, in my career,” Evers said.

She was just getting started by that point, though. While basketball was her primary sport, Haycock’s breakout moment came on the track her freshman year in a race that still stands out as quintessential Haycock.

But first, the backstory: In an icebreaker meet early in the season at McMinnville, Haycock found herself with a solid lead as the team’s anchor leg on the 4x400-meter relay. But she was run down by Meghan Armstrong — a gifted distance star from Tualatin who was on the cusp of claiming three consecutive state titles in both the 1,500 and 3,000 starting at that spring’s state meet.

The defeat stuck with Haycock for a long time. In fact, she even carried around the baton she had run with long after as a reminder.

“I decided that I was never going to let anyone pass me like that again,” Haycock explained.

Rarely does life come around full-circle so perfectly — and so quickly. Haycock got her shot at redemption a matter of weeks later at the Pac-9 district track meet, also at McMinnville.

Forest Grove cobbled together a somewhat dinged up long relay team at the end of the meet that consisted of Kayleen (McDowell) Strong, Emily McLain, Katie Klein and Haycock, who was coming off the disappointment of taking third in triple jump. She had entered the meet as the No. 1 seed but finished third, missing out on a state berth by a quarter-inch.

But her relay mates had summoned something special in the 4x400, and Klein handed off to Haycock for the final leg in second place, not far behind Canby.

Once again, Haycock raced around the track with Armstrong stalking her. Halfway through the leg, the Timberwolves standout overtook Haycock for second place and the final league berth to the Class 4A state meet.

“I’d just about had it mentally, and I was just about ready to just kind of fold,” Haycock said.

She didn’t, though. Instead, she found inspiration in the form of her brother Don, who was home from college for the summer and over on that side of the track to offer some encouragement.

“You go get her, Rach!” he yelled. “You go get her right now!”

Fleskes described Haycock as “ferociously competitive,” and Don’s words ignited that drive. Haycock refused to let Armstrong go, pulling back even as they exited the turn and battling stride for stride down the homestretch.

Evers was also the sprints coach at the time, so he witnessed the battle royale in person: “They just go neck-and-neck the whole way around, and then coming down the homestretch, everybody’s just screaming, and Rachel is just — you can see — just gutting it and gutting, and Meghan just ties up with about 30, 20 meters to go ... and about falls forward because she can’t go any harder.”

Haycock found an edge in the final strides, snatching up second place and a trip to state for herself and her teammates.

“She was the kind of person that had the most motivation, the most drive out of anybody that I’ve ever known. She just had that confidence,” said Strong, who was inducted into the FGHS Hall of Fame last year. “She has this look in her eyes, and you just know when she’s going to go after it, she’s going to go get it. She wanted to be the best.”

That runner-up finish led to the first of four consecutive trips to the state meet in Eugene for Haycock and the rest of that 4x400 team, with Rose Cooper joining the quartet for the final two years after McClain graduated. The squad placed seventh that first year and fifth in 2003, which would prove to be its best finish even though the team got faster over the years.

As for soccer, Haycock earned honorable mention all-league honors as a sophomore, but gave up the sport after that to concentrate on basketball, where her star continued to rise after that solid freshman season. She averaged 15.1 points per game as a sophomore and then 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game as a junior, earning first team all-conference nods both times.

Her senior year, when she averaged 14.0 points per game, Haycock led one of the best Vikings teams in school history. That squad went 21-5, won the league title and scored the program’s first-ever playoff win. In heartbreaking fashion, the Lady Vikings fell one game short of the state tournament, losing at state power Central Catholic in overtime.

Haycock graduated with the top ranking in a number of statistical categories, at least for players from 1996 on. Records prior to that are incomplete, but for those that are, Haycock still ranks first in career points (1,324), single-season points (422), single-season free-throw percentage (81.7), three-pointers in a game (eight) and season (55), plus three-point shooting percentage in a season (41.7). Her single-season steals record of 78 was broken just this past year.

For her superlative play, Aina was named the co-Pac-9 Conference Player of the Year as a senior and to the honorable mention all-state team. In college, she walked on at Brigham Young University and earned a scholarship her second year before retiring from that level of basketball and eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a music minor.

As good as Haycock was, what stands out to Evers above all is Haycock herself, the person and not just the athlete.

“I cannot say enough about Rachel Aina as a person,” Evers said. “Every bit of (an) attribute she has athletically, she’s probably better as a person. She is as phenomenal a kid as you will come across. She’s my absolute No. 1 all-time.”

In track, Haycock won the league title and placed seventh at state in the triple jump as a sophomore, the same year the Vikings went undefeated in dual meets and won the district meet title on their home track.

Those long relay teams were star-crossed Haycock’s junior and senior years, placing eighth in both trips after exchange zone collisions. In 2004, a runner from an opposing team walked across the lanes to exit the track right as Haycock was taking the baton, sending her careening to the ground. In 2005 — at the end of a season in which the Vikings won the prestigious Centennial Invitational and dipped under four minutes — a runner cut across several lanes on her way in to the exchange, sending Cooper sprawling.

“It was definitely a heartbreaker, especially the second one our senior year, being ranked pretty high and feeling like we could go even farther,” Haycock said. “It was pretty hard, but at the same time, we knew that we did our best.”

But the grace with which that relay team, Haycock included, handled those setbacks defined that group as much as those untimely falls. After that final race in 2005, Fleskes and Evers dashed into the athletes-only staging area to comfort their girls.

“We grabbed those girls and we did a group hug, and they grabbed their spike bags, and we said, ‘You know what? We’re walking out of here with our heads high,’” Fleskes said.

And with tears streaming down all of their faces, that is exactly what they did.



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