Perfecting the relay: Steamboat 4×400 team takes 2nd, hopes for shot at state championships
Steamboat Springs track and field seniors Olin Webster and Casey Wolf know what it takes to be part of a winning relay team.
Last year, the two were part of the 4×800 meter relay team to set the school record and followed that with a near record-setting 4×400 meter relay race. This year, they are in search of two strong runners to replace their graduated teammates.
On Saturday, during Steamboat’s home invitational, senior Sean Davenport and sophomore Matthias Wolf joined Webster and Casey Wolf in the 4×400 meter relay. It was the first time the group competed together in what has been a revolving door year for Steamboat’s second and third legs.
A new combination can be difficult to work with, and the order of runners often plays a massive part in a relay.
“The first leg stays in their lane the entire time, so you would like to try and get in good position,” Webster said. “The second guy you want to be able to merge in and keep that good position. We threw Sean (Davenport) in at the third leg to keep our place, and then the anchor usually just finishes off with some power.”
Relays implement more than just speed. Runners need to hold a baton throughout their runs and hope to seamlessly pass the baton to the next runner for quick transitions.
Steamboat’s strategy is for the receiver of the baton to shuffle laterally across the transition zone to guarantee a safe handoff.
“The 400 is really weird because most people on the final stretch are going to be really tired and not on a full sprint,” Casey Wolf said. “What we were doing this time were open handoffs where you can see your guy and make sure that you get the baton.”
The plan worked for Steamboat on Saturday, as the Sailors finished second with a season-best time of 3 minutes, 40.91 seconds.
Webster said it was a good result for the home meet, but with state rankings still so tight, it is unclear whether that will propel the Sailors far enough to compete at the state championship less than three weeks away.
Between dealing with the winter weather, sicknesses and delayed meets, it has been difficult for Steamboat to get into a rhythm in any of its events this season, and head coach Lisa Renee Tumminello is confident her athletes will show even greater improvements as the weather begins to warm and her runners have more time on the actual track.
The 4×400 team will have a few more chances this season to qualify for state, including the regional championships in Grand Junction starting Friday, May 5.
Matthias Wolf said he does not want the feeling of the 4×400 race to go away; there is nothing like it in the sport.
“I think coming around that last corner is the most hype experience in all of track,” he said. “You have your whole team there trying to support you and your friends and family are in the stands. The adrenaline is what keeps you going — it is not you.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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