Relay team hopes for repeat of state championship
1,600-relay team is ever changing, but team members hope the end result is the same
The Eudora girls 1,600-meter relay team has a tradition -- to take a victory lap around the track after the meet has concluded. The relay girls did it at the 2006 state meet, where they placed first and set a state record of four minutes and .9, and they did it at the first meet of the 2007 season in Wellsville this week. But instead of just the typical four girls running the victory lap, eight did.
Creating the perfect 1,600 relay team is not easy -- there is no formula.
Track and field coach Phil Katzenmeier said he was experimenting a little bit with the relay team by running two groups, at least initially. He said he planned to rotate the two teams throughout the season to try and find that perfect fit.
"We'll keep working the teams throughout the season," Katzenmeier said. "It gives me some flexibility with who I put on what team. These girls just worked so hard, and it showed today on the track."
What was remarkable, Katzenmeier said, was that each of the eight girls was able to run her respective 400 in less than 69 seconds, something not many coaches can boast.
He expects each runner to shave her time down to about 60 seconds by the end of the season, right on par with the 2006 state-winning relay team.
The first team, which was comprised of 2006 state veterans Emily Ballock and Brittney Graff, sophomore Tianna Dunnaway and freshman Lyndsay Slavens, placed first at the Snowball Relays at 4:13.1.
The second relay team consisted of Alisha Wingebach, who also was on the 2006 state-winning team, Lauren Colman, Liz Hoese and JoAnna Male. That team finished in third place at 4:26.7.
The race was good, Wingebach said, and should quickly get even better.
"We haven't really been practicing all that much because of spring break," Wingebach said. "We really only practiced the whole thing once before the meet."
But that one time must have been enough, as the two relay teams made a bold statement: whoever is running the girls 1,600 relay is not to be messed with.
Although three state girls are returning, some roles have switched. Ballock said her role on her relay team has changed considerably. At the 2006 state meet, Ballock was an interior runner. This year, she is the team's anchor, which she said was stressful because she had to watch the entire race unfold before her before she could contribute.
"Last year, my sister was (the anchor)," Ballock said. "I have the pressure to maintain our position or get the lead. I told them to get the lead before I race."
Thankfully, Ballock got her wish -- the relay team was far ahead of its competition by the time the baton was handed off to her. But that still did not stop Ballock from running the best time of any of the eight girls, 58.5 seconds.
"It was awesome to get the baton in the lead," Ballock said. "That's want I wanted."
The word stress does not even begin to explain what newcomer Slavens felt. Because this is her first year running in high school -- not to mention on a team so loaded with upperclassmen -- Slavens said she was nervous about proving herself to her team, but the other girls supported her and provided her with inspiration.
"I just want to step up and do well," Slavens said. "They really encourage me a lot. It's good to hear positive things from older girls."
Dunnaway took a bit of a different approach to prepare for the relay. She said she derived a lot of her inspiration from her father, who also provided her with techniques during the race.
"I went to my dad for advice," Dunnaway said. "He'd tell me not to freak out. He also gave me some techniques, like in the first 100, accelerate almost to top speed. In the next 100, stride. Then in the last 200, give it all you've got."
Katzenmeier said it would be some time before he set the final 1,600 team. Until then, whatever combination of the eight girls that toes the line hopes the evening's run won't be limited to just one trip around the track.
Whatever combination, they all plan on making the victory lap.
"The four-by-four is the big race," Dunnaway said. "It's not a pace-yourself kind of race. But it's not a sprinting race. It's about technique. I like to run it a lot."