Relay team four laps from state title
The 1,600-meter relay, often referred to as the 4x400 meter relay, has become the “main event on the fight card” in the sport of track and field. The race combines speed, stamina, …
Relay team four laps from state title
The 1,600-meter relay, often referred to as the 4x400 meter relay, has become the “main event on the fight card” in the sport of track and field. The race combines speed, stamina, teamwork and tactics in a way which makes it appealing to sports enthusiasts nationwide.
Thursday evening in Austin at Mike A. Myers Stadium, four young men from Mineola will be running the relay with an eye toward returning to Mineola as state 3A champions.
Jaxon Holland, TJ Moreland, Brady Shrum and Morgan Waggoner are expected to run the four legs of the relay. Jamarcus Kennedy will be on hand as the alternate in the case that injury requires his service to step in and perform.
Each man of the relay runs a 400 meter leg. For Mineola, Shrum comes out of the blocks for the first leg. The staggered starting positions on the track are retained for the duration of the first leg and through the first turn of the second leg.
Shrum hands the baton to Holland within the standard 30-meter handoff zone. Holland plays a critical role in that once clear of the first turn, the field of runners collapse out of their assigned lanes at what is known as the break line.
Holland passes the baton to Moreland for the third leg, with all racers running on an open track. The final leg is completed by Waggoner, who carries the team home.
The four young men are straightforward about what it takes to reach the state track and field meet. They took turns offering their perspectives: hard work, commitment and mental toughness were the common denominators among them.
Since the beginning of track season – and the end of a basketball season which occupied Holland and Moreland into February – the team knew that they could be something special.
“We had something to prove,” stated Shrum. Waggoner added, “We knew we were going to be fast this year.”
That speed began to raise eyebrows from the early meets at Canton and Wills Point but really sparked at the Yellowjacket Relays. The trip to Austin was secured with a 3:24.76 finish in regional competition.
While each is an accomplished athlete in his own right, the teammates are laser-focused on their specific role within the relay team.
“My job,” stated Shrum, “is to be the first to hand off the stick and give Jaxon as much of an advantage as I can.”
Holland picked up the narrative, “I have to get a lead in the first 200 meters, before the break line, to ensure we do not lose time in traffic,” he added.
Moreland described how important maintaining a lead is through the third leg, as well as the criticality of pushing through the last 100 meters.
Waggoner shared his objective as the anchor man of, “not letting anyone near me and getting around the track first.”
A multi-year track and field athlete, Waggoner credited his father John Waggoner for being his inspiration both on and off the track. “He continues to motivate me in everything I do,” he stated.
Kennedy likewise draws his strength from the influence of family. Specifically, his recently passed grandmother is central to his passion for athletics. “After she passed it kind of scrambled my mind, but when I step on the track, I think of her and run for her.”
Motivation is only part of the key to successful racing. Each sprinter described how the mechanics of running – breathing, posture, arm movement – tend to dominate their mind after the starters gun. Of course, there are exceptions, as Moreland admitted, “I think about a lot while I’m running.”
All of his teammates smiled at that remark. As Shrum then acknowledged, “more than anything, we run for each other.”
The Jackets will have a chance to add their names to sports history in Mineola and across Texas, just as their predecessors did in 2015. That year, the 4x400 meter relay team of Dalton Harris, Preston Williams, Kartney Hampton and Brent Wells won the state title with a time of 3:21.31.
The chemistry within this team to bring home another state title is there. As they all headed to the track to begin their daily training, they each wore an orange t-short emblazoned with one word: TOUGH. Shrum offered a final thought, “You have to be tough.” His teammates were nodding in agreement.