MEDFORD, Ore. — “It’s probably one of the hardest races in track,” said Madeline Volk.
“By the end, the last 100 meters, you can’t feel your legs anymore and you’re just kind of going on momentum,” said Gianna Isola.
“You just want to fall over but you need breaths to stay up,” said Aessa Catt.
“Once I finish the 400, I’m spent. I’m completely done,” said Volk.
The 400 is tough, and finding four sprinters who can run it well, is even tougher. That’s especially true at smaller schools like St. Mary’s where many athletes are running multiple events.
“Last year I was running the 300 hurdles which is the last race before and so I’d have to run straight to the start line to the next one and it was a little bit difficult,” said Isola.
Even if you can handle all the physical demands, the 4×4 is also a pressure-packed race. It’s the last event of a meet and state titles could be swung by the outcome of this race.
“It’s mental I think at that point,” said assistant coach Nikki Steinsiek. “You have the base, you have the training that you’ve built up over the last couple of months and it’s a head game.”
St. Mary’s has done a good job of figuring out this event. The Crusaders won three straight state championships in the 4×400 from 2009-2011. They’ve medaled nine straight times and have qualified for state every year since 2000.
“We built our teams around the relays, especially the 4×4,” said sprints coach Charlie LePari. “Real small school so we don’t get blessed with the real good 100 meter sprinters so we take those people that are pretty fast, but not fast enough and turn them in to really good 400 meter runners.”
This year’s crop seems like they will be able to keep those streaks going. All four runners from the 2013 state qualifiers are back, plus the emergence of some talented newcomers could mean a sixth state title for St. Mary’s in the 4×400.
“Last year we took third,” said LePari, “which was great because it was a rebuilding year so we’re expecting to be back in the drivers seat, back in to number one this year so we’re working hard toward that goal.”