For us sports historians, the name Billy Mills is legendary.
Relatively unknown at the time, Mills used an unbelievable “kick” to win the gold medal in dramatic come-from-behind fashion in the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Olympic Games. It is regarded as one of the greatest track and field races in history.
On a smaller scale, Brookings has their own version of Billy Mills.
Ten-year-old Lili Nunez, in her first major competition, used an incredible kick to fly past Bend’s Anilise Knox and win the state title in the girls 8-10 year-old 1,500-meter race at the TrackTown Youth League Championships on July 9 at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“It was awesome and amazing,” said Nunez, who ran a time of 5:48.12, demolishing her previous best time by 32 seconds. “I looked over at my parents and smiled.”
Nunez, who was admittedly nervous before the race, said that her race strategy was a simple one.
“All the other girls had better times than me, so I tried to stay close to the lead group,” she said.
The plan paid off, as Nunez’s nerves calmed as the race wore on, and she found herself in 2nd place on the last lap.
Knox was able to extend her lead to approximately 10 meters with half-a-lap left to go, that’s when Nunez, who had never raced in an event of this magnitude, found another gear.
“With 200-meters left, I wanted to run and pass her,” she said.
Nunez’s kick carried her past Knox down the back stretch — and earned her a state title, winning by two seconds.
“At the end I pulled it off and won. It felt exciting to win state,” said the 5th grader from Redwood Elementary School in Crescent City.
After the race, Nunez had to wait to celebrate with her family as she was ushered over to the podium for the medal ceremony.
“I was amazed,” said Nunez’s mother, Mayra, who, along with her husband Ramon, watched Lili and older brother Junior compete at the meet. “She was confident and trained hard. To see the look on her face was amazing. We’re so proud of her.”
Nunez also competed in 400-meter race, where she finished ninth with a time of 1:19.65, and in the javelin, where she placed third with a mark of 60-feet, 6-inches.
Her older brother, Junior, who Lili acknowledged was who helped inspire her to compete, finished fifth in the boys 13-14 year-old 1,500-meter race with a time of 5:06.01. He placed ninth in the javelin with a mark of 104-09.
As for the younger Nunez sibling, Lili plans to continue training and competing in events for the foreseeable future. She plans on competing at the middle school level when she reached sixth grade in the fall of 2017.