16-year-old Bend runner headed to the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Italy

16-year-old Bend runner headed to the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Italy

Dan Simoneau uses multiple activities to increase the fitness of his Nordic skiers during the summer and fall.

Simoneau, the Nordic director for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, said that running uphill is the purest measure of fitness.

One of his athletes, 16-year-old Jeffrey Bert, is taking things to a higher level. Later this summer, Bert, who is a Summit High junior-to-be, will go to Italy to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

Skyrunning is defined by the International Skyrunning Federation as mountain running at an elevation higher than 2,000 meters (about 6,562 feet) with an incline of more than 30%. It was founded in 1992 by a collection of mountaineers in the Italian Alps. Currently, according to the ISF it has more than 50,000 racers across 65 countries.

Bert became interested in this type of trail running when he was running during the previous couple of summers. He had been trying to stay in shape for the Nordic ski season.

“Every camp we do, we do an uphill run as a test,” Simoneau said of his Nordic teams. “And Jeffrey’s been helping me to find the hardest climbs. Going uphill is just a pure measure of fitness. What’s your aerobic capacity? Jeffrey and I will sit there with a map, ‘OK, where do we have big hills and where are the trails?’ He knows them all. He’s run them all.”

Bert has been a part of the MBSEF Nordic team for five years, and he has participated in the Junior Olympics in cross-country skiing the past two winters. He began going out on extended training runs that were 13 to 15 miles long during the summertime. He also attended the Max King Trail Running Camp the past two summers. The camps were held near Mount Hood in 2017 and near Lake Tahoe, California, in 2018. They were organized by King, the renowned pro runner from Bend.

“That was an amazing opportunity that I got to be a part of,” Bert said. “I just had an incredible experience. It was a really enjoyable camp to just start my interest in trail running.”

Bert has completed three ultramarathons – Races that are longer than the normal distance of 26.2 miles. Recently, he placed 16th out of 171 finishers in the 13.3-mile Mt. Ashland Hill Climb in Southern Oregon. He was 16th out of 311 finishers in the Smith Rock Ascent 15-mile run on May 19.

Though he was a cross country athlete as a freshman at Summit, Bert said he did not continue as a sophomore because he wanted to focus on longer-distance trail running.

He applied to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships. Competitors must pay their own way. He added to his application the outcomes of his various races in addition to a few essays and a recommendation from King.

The site of the world championships is situated in the Apennine Mountains, L’Aquila, just a 90-minute drive from Rome. Bert would participate in two races at the world event. The first one, on Aug. 2, is a vertical kilometer that contains 1,000 meters of elevation gain that spans less than 5 kilometers. The second race, to be held on Aug. 4, is a 15-kilometer race through comparable terrain. The trails in this event are extremely technical.

Bert said he found out about skyrunning through a friend of a friend on his Nordic team.

“And then just looking it up online, I realized it took my strengths and it was something that I could go with,” he says. “It’ll be some brutal competition, but I’m really excited for it because it’s what I’ve been training for.”

Bert said he has spent a lot of time training at Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, where typically he can find lots of elevation gain without any snow. As the summer progresses and the snow melts in the Central Oregon Cascades, he plans for additional training runs up South Sister, Mount Bachelor and Tumalo Mountain.

Bert’s father is a commercial pilot. Jeffrey, his parents, and his sister Heidi, who is 14, have enjoyed hiking and backpacking trips in various places worldwide. While on those trips, Bert has gone on long trail runs in countries such as France, Switzerland, Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania.

“It’s amazing for training, and you see such a variety of trails,” Bert said of traveling.

Bert’s family intends to make the trip to Italy to watch him race and then to travel around Europe after the races.

“We just love traveling and love seeing the world,” Bert said.

Bert’s long-term career goal is to go into sports medicine. He said he hopes to attend college in a mountain town where he can continue to pursue Nordic skiing, and of course, trail running.

“He’s just an aspirational kid when it comes to doing stuff,” Simoneau said. “He just wants to be better at whatever he does. It’s pretty cool. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s going to be really good at.”

Read the full story here.


Baby with spinal bifida born healthy after experimental surgery in the womb

Baby with spinal bifida born healthy after experimental surgery in the womb

To address his spina bifida, surgery was performed on Baby Royer while he was still in the womb. His story gives hope to the families of babies in the womb that suffer from that birth defect.

Royer was born in January after a surgery was completed in the womb in September. His future looks good.

The New York Times reported that Royer was born with a “feisty spirit,” kicking and screaming. His parents, Lexi and Joshuwa Royer, were told by doctors that these were great signs for a child with spina bifida.

“It was so worth it,” Lexi Royer told the newspaper. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s for sure.”

The report also said:

He arrived pink and screaming on Friday at 5:35 a.m., two days before his official due date, weighing 8 pounds 8 ounces, and almost 20 inches long.

Within moments of his birth at Texas Children’s Hospital, he did what his parents and doctors had eagerly hoped to see: He moved his legs and feet, a sign that the operation may have prevented damage to the spinal nerves needed for walking.

Indeed, placed on his belly, he managed to pull a knee underneath himself and push off, as if he intended to crawl away from the nurses who were trying to swaddle him.

The surgeon in chief at the hospital, Dr. Larry Hollier, said he was very pleased with how baby Royer looked at birth.

“I’ve never seen such a big defect successfully repaired, with the child moving his feet at birth,” Hollier said. “It’s unbelievable. If this is the cost of getting that closed — just having to do a little skin operation — it’s fantastic.”

In 2018, Lexi Royer told The New York Times that doctors tried to pressure her to have an abortion when her unborn son was diagnosed with spina bifida. Lexi Royer refused, and instead she and her husband started researching and found doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital that were willing to try to remedy baby Royer’s situation.

That September, the unborn boy and his mother had experimental fetal surgery while the child was still in the womb. The doctors made small cuts in his mother’s uterus, using a camera and surgical tools to fix the gap in his spine.

According to Dr. Michael Belfort, a surgeon at Baylor in Houston, Texas, fetal surgery helps decrease the damage to the spine while the baby is still in the womb. He said that the amniotic fluid eats away at the nerve tissue in the gap of the spine, which makes it important to close the gap before birth.

Belfort said they typically perform the surgery 24 weeks into the pregnancy, because if something goes wrong, there is a better chance the baby will survive outside the womb.

The technique has only recently been implemented, but doctors have been performing in-utero surgery for spina bifida and other ailments for years in the United States, according to Life News. The National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) discovered that closing the spinal defect in utero limited the need for shunts after birth and increased the child’s chances of walking by themselves. Doctors also speculate that the procedure might reduce the odds of learning disabilities as well.   

In 2014, LifeNews reported British doctors performed the first in-utero surgery on an unborn baby girl who also had spina bifida. The surgery went well, and in December 2016, 14-month-old Frankie was overcoming her disability and learning to walk, The Express reports. 

Recently, at least 13 hospitals in the U.S. have conducted fetal surgery on unborn babies that have spina bifida.

Researchers estimate that 64 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are eliminated by abortion. Now there is reason to have hope for unborn babies with the ailment.

(The LifeNews article has the incorrect statistic. 64% of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted, not 68.)

Read the full story here.



Young man mentored by police officer who arrested him

Young man mentored by police officer who arrested him

Over six years ago, Rameil Pitamber was a 17-year old honor student who was dealing with the death of his father.

“I was lost. I had a lot to prove. And I felt like to prove it, I had to be tough,” Pitamber said, as reported by CBS News. “I was a follower, and one poor decision led to the next.”

Pitamber robbed a Little Caesars restaurant at gunpoint, with the assistance of a friend who worked there. He was detained and convicted of a felony armed robbery and criminal confinement. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

“I didn’t believe it. I just started crying immediately,” said Pitamber’s mother, Daphne Harris. “My son, robbin’ someone […] that just wasn’t his character.”

The officer who arrested Pitamber, Brian Nugent, remembers the arrest well, and said that Pitamber was “memorable.” Nugent is a deputy police chief in Avon, Indiana.

During her son’s imprisonment, Harris made sure to stay in contact with Nugent.

“I needed him to know that he wasn’t just another kid in trouble,” Harris said. “I needed him to know that, you know, he has a home, he has a family, he has a support system. This is who my son is.”

Pitamber was released prematurely because of good behavior, and he desired to get into home improvement and real estate. But he wanted a mentor to help him. While he was working at Goodwill one day, Pitamber recognized Nugent when he dropped off a donation.

“I just asked him. Like, ‘Hey, are you Detective Brian?’ Pitamber recalled. “I was just like, ‘Hey, it’s me. How you doing?’”

The fact that Nugent was a police officer meant a lot to Pitamber. “My goal was to not go back to prison. But I didn’t 100% know what to do to not go back to prison,” he said. “And I knew that he knew that.”

Nugent said he told Pitamber that he’d be “happy to do it.” But there were guidelines: “we’re gonna touch base every month. We’re gonna go out for lunch. We’re gonna have conversations.”

Nugent and Pitamber talked about finding a job and answering questions skillfully about his past. After having conversations with Nugent, Pitamber said that he saw things this way: “If I view myself as less then Rameil, than I’m less than Rameil…. I can’t be mad at you [if you] treat me how I treat myself.”

“I’m not ex-convict. I’m not just black. I’m not just Pakistani. I’m Rameil,” he added.

The guidance from Nugent changed Pitamber’s mind about cops. Growing up, he said, he was taught “Never to talk to ‘em, never to trust ‘em,” and that “They lie, they arrest you.” But now he’s had firsthand experience, and “that’s not the case.”

“I hope that people can see, with everything that is going on, is all it takes is respect on both sides,” Harris said. “It’s more good kids out there than bad. It’s more good police out there than bad.”

Rameil currently has a consistent job doing heating and air. He’s also refurbishing his own home and attending school. “I want something outta life,” he said. “I wanna be successful, and I wanna be truly free.”

“I think the change that I see the most in him is his confidence,” Nugent said. “There’s no better reward in this job than helping somebody succeed and achieve those goals in their life.”

Pitamber is very thankful for his unlikely mentor. “He treated me with compassion and understanding, and he never treated me less than, not once. To this day, he still builds my worth and self-esteem,” he said. “With him in my corner, I can do anything.”

To read the more of about this story and watch a video, click here.







103-year-old Julia Hawkins competes in 100-meter dash, says to appreciate sunsets and music

103-year-old Julia Hawkins competes in 100-meter dash, says to appreciate sunsets and music

103-year-old Julia Hawkins likes to have a flower in her hair—even while she is running a 100- meter dash.

Two years ago, when Hawkins was 101, she ran the 100-meter dash in 39.62 seconds. They dubbed her the “Hurricane.”

Hawkins made another appearance this week in Albuquerque, running the 50- and 100-meter dash races in the National Senior Games. It has been said that she is the oldest woman to formally compete on an American track, according to the organization. The National Senior Games hosts events in Olympic-style for athletes 50 and older.

There is not much competition in the centenarian age group, so Hawkins was mostly competing against herself. Although she finished her 100-meter dash about six seconds slower than her record time, Hawkins did not let that dampen her spirits. “I’m two years older, remember?” she said, as reported by The New York Times.

Hawkins started running late in life, but she has added it to her list of passions. She resides in Baton Rouge, La., where she goes on daily walks and looks after the trees on her property. She has four children, three grandchildren and one great-grand child. She married her late husband, Murray, over the telephone during World War II. They were married for 70 years.

Hawkins loves flowers. When The New York Times contacted her for an interview on June 19, she was taking it easy in a botanical garden.

“I would rather be the ‘Flower Lady’ than the ‘Hurricane Lady,’” she said.

When Hawkins looks back on her life, she is grateful for her family.

“I’m most proud of my children and my husband,” she said. “They were the wonderful things in my life — and the grandchildren, and the great-grandson. Those are things, you just can’t beat that. This other (the running) is just a little icing on the cake.”

Hawkins bestowed her life advice.

“Have many passions,” Hawkins said. “And look for magic moments. That is something that I have done in my life — think of the things that are magic moments that happen to you, like sunsets and sunrises, rainbows, beautiful birds, music and people’s lovely comments to you. All of those are magic moments and they are free for all. Be sure to keep your eye open for them.”

To read the full interview by The New York Times, click here. 


Loggers, farmers and ranchers protest HB 2020 at the Capital, show support for the ‘Oregon Eleven’

Loggers, farmers and ranchers protest HB 2020 at the Capital, show support for the ‘Oregon Eleven’

Eleven Republican senators have continued their walkout protest that is in its eight-consecutive day. Meanwhile, hundreds of loggers, farmers and ranchers assembled on the Capital steps on June 27. They were protesting a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill and showing their support for the missing Republican senators.

It was one of the biggest rallies of the 2019 legislative session. There were flags, signs and songs, along with a continuous flow of semi-trucks, pickups and farm equipment that surrounded the Capital for several hours.

Traffic blocked many streets as several large rigs from throughout the state showed up during the morning commute.

Inside the capital, 18 Democrats met once again for a floor session, not expecting their Republican colleagues to arrive.

The Democrats have the supermajority, with 18 members, but they must have two Republican senators in order to reach a quorum of 20. A two-thirds quorum is necessary to do any business.

Even if the Senate acquires enough members before adornment on June 30, they will still have to come up with a solution about House Bill 2020, the greenhouse gas emissions bill. This is true regardless of what Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said on Tuesday. He said that the bill lacked the votes to pass the Senate, and “that will not change,” as reported by the Statesman Journal.

Nevertheless, because of where HB 2020 is in the legislative process, it is essential that the Senate has an up-or-down vote on the bill. It’s either that or have a vote to send it back to committee.

Republicans want it to be guaranteed that the bill really doesn’t have the votes to pass. Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, trusts Courtney, according to legislative staff, but there is prevalent suspicion in his caucus of Democrats, now that the end of the contentious session is nearing.

Not all Democrats in the caucus are agreed on how they want to continue. Some have declared that they are not letting go of HB 2020, causing anxiety among Republicans.

Citizens from across Oregon rallied in support of the Republican senators. Some of them trekked nearly three hours Thursday morning. They stood in the rain, some wearing hard hats or holding American flags. Almost all of them had signs with phrases on them such as “rural lives matter,” “make Oregon ours again” and “they walked for me,” referencing the Senate Republicans.

Hunter Nash said that he came to Salem because, as a 6th-generation logger, he believes HB 2020 would wipe out his livelihood. Every one of his vehicles run on diesel.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the Oregon Eleven,” Nash told the Statesman Journal, referring to the absent Republican senators. “They are definitely representing me and all of the people here.”

Speakers spoke to the crowd, saying that HB 2020 would not help alleviate climate change at all, and that it would take away their jobs. Those that promote the bill admit that by itself it would have an insignificant impact on global carbon emissions.

“Those of us who make a living from the land are the best environmental stewards there are,” Marie Bowers, a 5th-generation farmer, said. She got a loud response from the crowd. “Those who work outside are more in touch with the climate that those who legislate the climate.”

Many House Republicans said that after trying and failing to amend the bill to support rural Oregonians, they were pleased that Republican senators took action to stop it.

After six hours of debate on the floor on June 17, the HB 2020 bill passed the House of Representatives. The bill has acquired more than 120 suggested amendments.

“Both chambers fought this in different ways,” House Republican Leader Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, said during the rally. “There are people who have a greatly different vision of how Oregon should look. Their vision would take away your jobs. It already has and it will.”

If the Republican senators fail to return, about 125 budget and policy bills will die after June 30.

Negotiations to convince the Republicans to return to the capital are still in progress between Baertschiger, Courtney and Gov. Kate Brown.

Read the full story here.

Hunter Nash sits in front of the Oregon State Capital.



Four Oklahoma teenagers save elderly woman from fire

Four Oklahoma teenagers save elderly woman from fire

Ninety-year-old Catherine Ritchie from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, had been living in the same house for 58 years. That changed when her bed caught fire several weeks ago.

“I was getting ready for bed in the bathroom, and I turned around, and my bed, the head of my bed, was covered in flames,” Ritchie said, as reported by KTUL.

According to a blog post written by Ritchie’s daughter, Missy Nicholas Ritchie, her mother pushed the emergency call button she wears on her necklace and called 911.

“The smoke was so bad, I couldn’t see to get out of my room,” Ritchie said. “I felt along the wall, and I went into the closet instead of the door to get out of the room. I finally did get to the door.”

That was when four young heroes intervened.

“We were just sitting around looking for something to do,” said 17-year-old Wyatt Hall.

“We were actually fixing to leave … We were fixing to go to QT to get something to drink,” said 16-year-old Seth Byrd.

When the boys, ages 14 to 17, left the house they were in, they became aware of the smell.

“It smelled kind of like burning rubber. Then, we heard the house alarm go off,” said 16-year-old Dylan Wick.

The boys acted quickly.

“One started breaking the glass on the front door,” Ritchie’s daughter wrote in her blog. “One called 911. One went to the back door and began kicking it in. One went to the neighbors for an ax and help.”

Nick Byrd, 14, was able to get through the back door and quickly went inside. He found Ritchie in the hall. She was lost in the smoke.

“This young boy was right there,” she said. “He picked me up, and I said, ‘I can walk,’ and he said, ‘We’re getting out of here.’”

“I just kind of heard her,” said Nick Byrd. “I went to the right of the house, and no one was there. I went to the left of the house, and I saw her in the hallway, so I just grabbed her and took her to Seth.”

Ritchie made it out safe along with the boys, and firefighters quenched the flames.

“They were just special, as young as they were,” Ritchie said of the boys.

Missy Nicholas Ritchie’s blog post was titled “An Open Letter of Thanks.”

“Thank you for your selfless acts of heroism and courage,” she wrote to the boys. “Thank you for not allowing this to be the tragic end to our mother’s amazing life.”

Catherine Ritchie has 42 grandchildren.

“Thank you for more than we know how to thank you for!” Missy Nicholas Ritchie wrote to the heroes. “We will forever be indebted to the time you bought for us and the example you set for us. God Bless each of you for being such a blessing to us.”

Find out more about this story here.