KU Relays ignite focus of track team

Emily Wright

Juniors Haley King and Mallory Short practice afterschool. Photo by Drew Rogers

When junior Hailey King qualified with her 4×100 meter relay team for the finals April 20 at the Kansas Relays with a time of 50.65, she was elated.

Not only did her team beat some of the best of Midwest high school track at a prestigious meet, but the relay team also came within half a second of the school record which was set in 1979.

However, the preliminary race was the first time 4×100 meter relay members junior Sienna Trice, sophomore Madison Wipfler, junior Christina Oyelola and King had ever competed together as a relay.

This inexperience with the event became evident in the finals as faulty handoffs during the race added nearly a second to their qualifying time, leading them to finish eighth.

But King remains positive despite the mistakes. Having a competitive race under their belt, she believes she and her teammates on the 4×100 can learn from experience and eliminate their imperfections during the weeks leading to the post season.

“We will build off of our performances,” King said. “For the 4×100 we are going to work on handoffs because that is the main thing that we need to improve. We are just going to work harder and get more focused.”

At this point in the season, head coach Neal Blackburn said the bulk of the training has been accomplished. In the two weeks preceding the district meet in Jefferson City, Blackburn plans to give his athletes fine-tuning workouts that will perfect their runs, sprints, jumps and throws.

“We still have a lot ahead of us,” Blackburn said. “We have hit a plateau in some of our performances, and that’s where the sharpening is really going to start to cause us to run faster, drop times and to have better marks in some of the field events.”

With the increased intensity comes the necessity for an increased focus. In the mile and two mile races last weekend, junior Nathan Keown realized he will have to work on his race strategy in order to run faster times.

With faster competition than he is used to, runners encircled him during his races, making it difficult to surge ahead and run with his full potential.

The two mile “was such a crowded race,” Keown said. “It made me realize that I have to position myself better early on. You have eight laps, and I got stuck in the back, and it was hard to move because there were so many bodies around. Focus is something we are going to work on at [the Dale Collier invitational]. It really matters now.”

Blackburn emphasized that his team members must carry out its intensity into its everyday life, which they do through sleep, hydration and proper nutrition in addition to practicing hard.

With that attitude, both the boys and girls teams hope to capture district championships in two weeks.

“We will begin to switch our focus from regular track meets to the championship type track meets,” Blackburn said. “Practices start to get a little more intense, but they don’t last quite as long. You’ll notice that we start to get a little more rest. This is the time in the season when we want to feel fast and fresh.”

By Emily Wright