“I would say I’m inspired to work hard because I know often excellence in life comes with work, sacrifice, struggles and even pain,” said junior Abigail Shaffer, second runner on the Minnehaha girl’s 4 by 800 team. “But most of all, the work ethic and actions of my teammates often inspire me, cause me to work harder and longer.”
Minnehaha Academy’s girls 4 by 800 meter relay won state on June 10th, this summer. All of their hard work and dedication throughout the long track season paid off. The runners were seniors Ava Perez Erickson, Terra Rhodes, Abigail Shaffer, and Anna Wintz.
In relays, as in many other team sports, each competitor has very different impressions of the competition and thoughts while it’s going on.
One of the most important aspects of running is the training and practice that takes place before the race is run. For relays this is especially important because the handoffs need to be quick and efficient.
“Training for the race was difficult but exciting,” said Shaffer. “Workouts can be really tough in track, but once we get closer to the state meet we start tapering [running easier workouts]. It was exciting to know that our girls team was doing well in workouts which boosted our confidence for state.”
However, many runners have to face challenges and injuries throughout the season. In these cases, the training is often adjusted.
“For me [training] was different because I was injured so I had less training than everyone else and I was on the bike every other day,” said Perez Erickson. “It was just training for another race, it was nothing special except this race you have a little more taper or you’re more rested.”
Another major motivator for many runners is to set goals. These can be time goals, goals to qualify for the state meet, goals to get a certain ranking at a meet, or many more.
“Since we got seventh place last year, we were really motivated to get up there and get top three,” said Wintz. “We set goals at the beginning of the season and knew we wanted to do really well.”
When it’s time for the race to start each runner relies on the training and coaching throughout the season and puts it to the ultimate test. That is one reason that many track athletes have pre-race anxiety, especially for important meets like the state meet.
“Before, I always try to stay positive,” said Rhodes. “But on the inside i’m freaking out. Usually I do a pretty good job of hiding it until we’re at the starting line, that is when I get most nervous. During the race, I kind of just stop thinking and just try to think that she’s gonna be the one to break down sooner than me, but also that I have to do well not just for me, but for all my teammates who have worked hard earlier in the race.”
The race itself is when runners can put it all of their training into play and achieve their goals.
“I just wanted to get it done with, I was in a lot of pain and it was really hot,” said Perez Erickson. “ I was just thinking ‘I want to leave’. That was my thought process. I was just like ‘I’ve got to keep our position’, I kept us in number two. And I handed it off.”
Winning the race was a very special moment for the team. It marked the end of their eventful season.
“I knew right away because I could tell that I passed her, and it was almost as if there was relief,” said Rhodes. “I don’t know why, because we were not even seeded that high, but I was so happy! But it was really hot that day and I was in kind of a daze afterwards so I was just trying to cool down.”
Another motivation for this team was that this was their third appearance at the state track meet for this event.
“I think it felt really good for us to win because that was like our third time making it to state in the four by eight and the previous year we had gotten seventh place as a team so we weren’t sure of how we would run that day,” said Wintz.
After the race, the runners reflected on the success and all of the memories they made together as a team.
“My favorite moment was definitely us just being who we are after the race and just dancing around after races as we usually do and having a fun time,” said Rhodes. “I think that some of this is shown through putting silly colors in our hair for important races, we just want to have a fun time and enjoy our time together, knowing that we worked hard.”