The Guyer girls team has several goals as it heads to Abilene for this weekend’s Class 4A Region I track and field meet, which begins today and concludes Saturday.
Of course, the main goal is to get as many athletes as possible qualified for the UIL state meet May 9 and 10 at Austin’s Mike A. Myers Stadium. But aside from that, coach Megan Hardesty has a regional team title in her sights to follow up a dominant District 5-4A meet showing a couple of weeks ago.
The key to winning team titles in track is doing well in the three relay races, and this week at McMurry, the Lady Wildcats will be well represented in those events.
“When we go to regionals, our goal is to win it,” Hardesty said. “You get double the points for relays. If you can get top one or two in two of them and top three or four in the other, you put yourself in a good position to win it. Points get really dispersed there.”
For senior Leanne Bell and juniors Brittany Crabtree and Joyner Harris, their hopes of going to state don’t fall just on their shoulders, but on their teammates’ as well.
Senior Candalyn Lyons is running in Guyer’s two strongest relays — the 400- and 800-meter events — but also is competing in the 100, for which she earned a state berth last year as a junior before being disqualified after a false start.
Relays are a risky proposition, with an increased chance of disqualification for illegal handoffs and the possibility of a dropped baton — a phrase not to be uttered during practice.
“It is hard,” Bell said of passing up the opportunity to run an individual event. “I know it’s good for the team, though, because it’s more points overall and we could win as a team. But at the same time, it is scary because it’s risky and I could’ve done well in an open [individual] event.”
Lyons, who hopes to return to Austin by being a top-two finisher in Abilene, said the relays add some flavor to an otherwise highly individual sport.
“If there weren’t relays, there’d be no team bonding in track,” Lyons said. “But knowing there are other people relying on you, it really brings us all closer together.”
It also helps performance, Bell said. The senior has run in the 100, 200 and 400 at times this year — her first as a track-only athlete at Guyer — but forfeited the opportunity to run any of those to concentrate on the relays. Bell runs the third leg of the 400 relay, will anchor the 800 relay and will lead off the mile relay. Last year, she anchored Guyer’s mile relay team that finished eighth at the state meet.
“Even if I were to run an open 400 and an hour later run the [mile relay], my time is always three or four seconds faster in the relay split because I have teammates there and they’re relying on me and pushing me,” Bell said. “The team aspect really does help you run way better than what you would in an open.”
While the Wildcats have all three relays competing at regionals, their best chances to get through to the state meet might lie with the two shorter distances, and both races feature the same four-girl team of Harris, Lyons, Bell and Crabtree.
Crabtree, a Texas A&M soccer pledge, came over directly from soccer and anchored both squads at the district meet, though she’ll move to the second leg in the 800 relay to allow Bell to anchor this weekend.
“She’s just one of those phenoms,” Hardesty said of Crabtree, who rarely practiced track during soccer season since the practice times conflicted. “She could probably go play basketball. I don’t know if she’s ever played volleyball, but she probably could. I appreciate the fact she’s given time to us when she’s plenty busy with school soccer and outside soccer.”
Though Crabtree is a bit of a newcomer in the group, the four hope to be spending more time together in the coming weeks. Hardesty said consistency gives them an advantage in those two races.
“As far as handoffs, it’s not the exact same order but it’s the same girls doing the same race every time,” Hardesty said. “It’s like any other sport and you get that team camaraderie. Last year we changed a lot and never had that consistency, so that part is a big help for us this year. I like their chances.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.