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Running genes boost Kent-Meridian's swift Lee
Kent-Meridian High School's D'Mon Lee believes he was "born to run."
Technically, Lee has been running since before he was born when his mother, Monique Lee, ran a collegiate race while pregnant.
Monique set records in high school and college in Alabama, and has passed on those genes to her son.
Lee — a compact, quiet senior with braided black hair — started running in elementary school as a lunchtime activity, but his mother recognized his potential and encouraged him to continue in middle school and high school.
He's gained deserved attention in his senior year of track and field from coaches by cutting down his 100-meter time. Since returning from off season practice, he's brought it down from 11.7 seconds to 11.2 and put himself in a solid position for placing at the Class 4A state meet in May. He went from running on the junior varsity team for his freshman, sophomore and junior years to being ranked fourth in the West Central District in the 100, and 16th in the state.
During his most recent event, the Oregon Relays on April 18 at Eugene's Hayward Field, Lee cut his time by half a second, dropping it to 11.2.
"These guys are the fastest of the fastest," he remembers thinking. He placed in the top two in his heat to advance to the top eight and finished eighth.
In high school, he hit a proverbial wall in training, when he stagnated for his sophomore and junior seasons at 11.7 and 11.6 times, unable to shave anything else off.
"I almost stopped running," Lee says.
While Kent-Meridian coach Shane Bartow says that much of the improvement's been due to time in the weight room in the off season, Lee also credits his time on the track.
"I came to this track every day," he says nodding to French Field, "and I ran and ran and ran."
He ran long runs to improve endurance and short runs to work on sprinting. His mom, who worked a day job and couldn't help him directly, gave him advice on what to work on and ways to improve technique.
Lee runs the 100, 200 and 4x100 meter relay, but says his favorite event is the 200. The 100-meter sprints, he says, are too short to allow for a true test of a runner's ability, whereas the 200 allows runners to sprint, maintain and test who can overcome whom.
While winning races is exciting for Lee, he finds more of a thrill from running.
"You're running, and it seems like a really long time. You hear your heartbeat, you hear your breathing," he says. "Even if I come in last, it feels good to run because it comes naturally."