There’s one empty spot left on the wall in the River Ridge High School weight room.
Inside a blue border is a piece of paper that reads, “Who will it be?” with a giant No. 50 beneath it.
That question was answered on Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School.
On the final day of Star Track XXXIV, junior Josh Braverman won the Class 2A boys 300-meter hurdles to become River Ridge’s 50th track and field state champion.
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“I’m just happy to be able to be No. 50 in the school,” he said. “No one can take that away from you. I worked hard for it, and I’m glad that I was safe, healthy and happy.”
Braverman has the best mark in the state of Washington in the 300 hurdles (38.17 seconds, set at the 52nd annual Shaner Invitational on May 6). He won Saturday’s state final by more than a second over Sedro-Woolley’s Billy Hornbeck, posting a 38.39.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “It’s about time. I’m just glad that I won. I worked really hard to get this far. Today was a good day.”
Braverman placed in all four events he qualified in during the course of the weekend. He took second in the 110 hurdles (14.48), fifth in the 200 (23.32), and sixth in the long jump (21-7).
“I’m happy that my grandparents — wherever they are — got to see my race,” said Braverman, whose maternal grandfather and grandmother both died earlier this month. “I was thinking about them before. I’m glad I did good for them to see me — and all of my family and friends here, and the coaches that came to support.”
Despite harsh conditions and a strong headwind entering the final 100-meter stretch of the 300 hurdles on Saturday, Braverman sailed through the race, crossing the finish line as most of the field cleared the final hurdle.
“I just heard hurdles clipping, and I was like, ‘I gotta go,’ because second isn’t OK in my book,” he said. “I had to really push. Once I crossed the finish line and couldn’t see anyone in my peripherals, I was happy.”
“He fought through it, and that’s the kind of stuff you remember,” River Ridge coach Phil Lonborg said.
Braverman found Lonborg, who has coached at River Ridge for 23 years, following the race.
“He hugged me and said, ‘I’m glad I got it for you,’ ” Lonborg said.
Lonborg coached all 50 of River Ridge’s track and field state champions. He will retire at the end of the school year.
“I’m honored, I’m humbled,” Lonborg said. “It’s a tribute to staying the course and loving what I do, and having a great passion for it. It’s a testament to our school. We’ve been able to put together a culture at River Ridge.”
Now, one more photo will be posted on the wall in the high school’s weight room — which is lined with photos and newspaper articles of champions past — before Lonborg makes his exit.
This photo will be of first-time champion Braverman, Lonborg’s 50th and final track and field state titlist.
“It’s a huge achievement,” Lonborg said. “Think about being a state champion — very few people get to do it.
“Hopefully, this will fuel a bigger fire (in Braverman) to come back next year. He needs to remember how hard he worked to get there, and he’s got to do that all year long. And he will.”