I have enjoyed watching the progress of our training over the last month, and it was with great anticipation that I looked toward this meet so that we could test ourselves against other teams. I was not disappointed in the least!
The meet started with some "track school" for the newbees--exchange zones, warm up times, and general track etiquette were all important lessons for the day! Our veterans did a fantastic job of mentoring our new crew; thank you to Julia, Janelle, Victoria, Angie, and Daz! Before a single one of our D-Crew started to warm up, they were already showing their cross-crew support by cheering on Jalah and Maesa in the shot put as well as Aja and Taija in the 55. That kind of interest in the performances of others, as well as curiosity about how the other events work are how good teams become great!
The first race of the finals brought the D-Crew some hardware. Our 4X800 team of Kelsey, Julia, Janelle, and Cynthia looked outstanding. Kelsey, despite a rough bout of the flu a week ago, started us off with a gutsy performance. She started smart, sitting back in the pack, then wisely picking off competitors as the 5 and 1/3 laps ticked by (keep this lap count in mind when looking at the "final splits below--I believe our timers included the 1/3 in the final split time). She handed off the baton to Julia in a great position, running an impressive split of 2:41. Her lap times were very consistent (29, 29, 31, 32, 40) which is why she was able to reel in other competitors in the final laps. She handed off the baton to Julia who had a great start and looked amazing for most of the race. Her one "weak" lap was the 4th, which is a common problem (29, 32, 32, 37, 42). This is the part of the race we will work on in coming weeks. Her split was a solid 2:52 when she handed off to Janelle (which is a great sentence to write), whose form looked wonderful for most of the race. Janelle's splits did not follow the same pattern as her teammates (30, 27, 37, 34, 40). I believe the surge in the second lap coincides with Janelle passing another team, and that speed came at a cost in the third lap. This will be another point of emphasis for this season--working on surging and then holding on longer to avoid a dip. That being said, she still finished with an impressive 2:54--her first track race since sophomore year! When Janelle made the final exchange to Cynthia, we were in great shape within the overall race. Her newness did not show; instead, her gritty, racing mindset was all over her face. Even when the lead team (was it Stevenson? I am blanking out for some reason...) came up on her, she looked over with that "Heck, naw!" look, and pulled along with the runner. Her splits were pretty even (30, 31, 34, 35, 49), but she will need to work on closing out the race strong. For her first 800 ever, I was impressed by her grit in the 3rd and 4th laps--the usual time a newbee panics and backs off due to the pain inherent to the 800. Overall, we finished an impressive 4th place and brought home some hardware.
We did not enter anyone in the 3200 today due to the small track size (only a 150), so our next athletes were in the open 800. Our two newbees Elyssa and Karen were in the same heat together. Karen got out hard, running in 2nd place for several laps, while Elyssa took a more conservative start, gliding along with the back of the pack. Both women were alert within the race, using their competition to help them push. In lap 3, the pack tried to move on Karen, but she worked with them in order to keep pushing when she was tired. In lap 4, a few runners were able to best her, but she did not fold like most newbees do; instead, she tucked behind them and drafted until she started her kick. Elyssa continued to pull along with the pack, using their energy to help pull her to a great time. Overall, these two women looked impressive for their first races of the season. I estimated that they would run in the 3:20s, and Karen finished in an impressive 3:09 (30, 34, 36, 37, 52) while Elyssa finished with a zesty 3:18 (32, 35, 37, 40, 54). Clearly these splits show that we will need to work on second-half strength; this problem is common for early season racing! What made me most happy was how both of these women kept fighting to compete from start to finish. With that kind of grit, the splits will get more even as these women get more fit.
Our next race of the day was the 1500 Medley (300-150-450-600). This is a weird race, but our squad handled the handoffs like experts and raced well. Kaylah (sprinter) started us off strong in the 300 lap, and handed off to Julien for a speedy 150. When Carmen took the baton, she took off hard, but like many of her teammates, she struggled to maintain her speed toward the end (28-29-34). That drop from the second to third lap is definitely an area for future growth. Carmen's form was impeccable for the whole race, and her handoff to Angie was good. Angie looked strong at the start, matching Carmen's opening lap (28, 30, 38, 35). Her third lap was off pace, though. Her kick, however, was fantastic. She pushed hard on the last lap, especially the last curve, to catch a competitor before the line. That kind of grit in the final meters is what we are looking for!
Our milers outperformed my expectations today, too. Victoria's goal was to go sub-7, and Daz's was to be sub 7:50; both smashed those goals. Victoria started out strong and ran pretty even splits throughout (34, 37, 38, 39, 38, 40, 38, 40, 40, 42, final 2/3 25). Victoria has always been great about running even splits, and this race was no different. The area for growth would be that 42 lap; at this point, she is in the final 300, yet that lap is her slowest. We will definitely work on kicking from further out so that she can close the way she wants to. She might have been able to work on the Wheeling athlete she was racing most of the time had she taken off at that point. The good news is that Victoria reached her goal by running a 6:51--a good start for her indoor season. Daz ran a similar pattern to Victoria (34, 38, 38, 41, 43, 43, 43, 45, 44, 46, 44 final 2/3 28). Much like Vic, she stayed pretty consistent throughout the race, with the exception of that anomaly of the 46 lap. She, too, needs to trust herself to kick from sooner out, but her lap time did drop a bit to a 44. There were two impressive parts of Daz's race: first, she did an outstanding job of using runners to help her push in the first part of the race; second, when she was alone, she stayed focused upon her goal. These two factors delivered a LIFETIME PR of 7:24! So proud of this runner! With that kind of focus, I know she can break 7 early in this season. Nice job to both of these milers!
Our final distance runner of the day was in the 4X400. Despite having to wait all meet to get a chance to contribute, Maya did not let the nerves of waiting spoil her performance. She spent most of the day watching and learning from her teammates, and then she wowed us with her 400 performance. We were seeded into a slower heat, which is too bad because I would like to see what this group can do when pushed by faster runners. Jada got out strong in a 75+ and handed off to Kaylah, who ran a strong leg in 73+. When Maya took the baton, our whole team went nuts watching her extend her team's lead and lap one of the other teams. Maya looked smooth and assertive the entire race, running a 67/68 quarter. Iman brought our relay home with an improved 78 over her previous open 400 from earlier. To run such a quick 400 indoors is very promising, so I look forward to watching Maya improve this race throughout the season!
Overall, we had a great day as a track team. Not only was the positivity important, but we were able to bring home some bling: our 4X800, the 4X 1 lap relay of Aja, Jayda, Mora, and Taija, as well as Mora in the triple jump (her first time in the pit this year), and a win for Jalah in the shot put. I look forward to us working hard to improve as a distance crew so that we can contribute to our overall team success.
Food for thought: Let's make learning names this week's focus. We cannot support one another if we don't know each other. Sit with someone new in Strickland's room. Introduce yourself. Let's make this team feel like family! #oneteameffort
FYI, the official results for this meet are on athletic.net. Let's set some goals based on these performances! :)
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