Madelynn Knight rounded each curve of the track, pushing and fighting as hard as she could, trying to pass the baton off to her teammate faster than the next girl.
Going into the invitational, senior Madeleine McCarty, junior Erica Jackson and freshmen Madelynn Knight and Maggie Linton established that they needed to average a 2:22 split time between the four of them to qualify for the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament in the 4x800 relay. On Jan. 6, the JMU Track and Field team placed first in the relay at the Father Diamond Invitational, with a time of 9:20.86, achieving their goal.
“We just kind of encouraged each other,” Knight said. “We told each other we could hit that time, and I actually started, so when I handed it off to Maggie I was confident in her ability to run an amazing leg and get the race going well.”
Being that it was the first time this group had run a relay together, their ability to create a connected strategy and dynamic lineup that would allow them to win the race led to an improbable victory.
“I thought it was awesome,” head coach Chereé Hicks said. “Especially coming off of a break, to be able to qualify for ECAC’s, and just continue that pace of running well with their competitors and setting ECAC marks, it was awesome.”
For Knight and Linton, neither runner had much experience running an 800-meter leg since that’s not what they specialized in at the high-school level. However, with the guidance of their coaching staff, veterans McCarty and Jackson brought a win home for the Dukes.
“Coach Rinker told us what order he thought would be best,” Knight said. “I’m not normally an 800 runner, so I think he wanted me to start so I would have people to run with and I could get out fast and hit the time.”
Linton soaked up all the knowledge possible from her veteran teammates and attributed her success in the 4x800 to their support and comfort.
“It was really nice to have [the upperclassmen],” Linton said. “I never ran a 4x800 in high school, so to have them [there] to tell us not to stress or panic, and to just run our hearts out, they made us feel like we were contributing to the team.”
As the team prepares for the ECAC tournament by weightlifting and practicing the 4x800, they hope to knock time off their relay and place in the next race.
“We went into the race and said we’re not going to look back,” Linton said. “Just keep running … [we keep our] eyes set on the goal the whole entire time and stay focused.”
Contact Mandy Bartholomew at email@example.com. For more track and field coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.