By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
It’s all about the handoffs.
Muskogee’s girls and boys have had success this season in the relays, leading up to this weekend’s state meet. The Lady Roughers qualified three relays (400-, 800- and 1,600-meter) while the boys have their 400 quartet taking the Yukon High School track.
Members of the foursomes and the coaches unanimously agree that the success in the events can be attributed to making sure the baton is passed from one runner to another as cleanly as possible.
“Handoffs are the major thing in any relay race,” Marcus McVay, the lone senior on the boys quartet, said. “They determine the whole race, how fast you can get the handoff and make it smooth for everyone else on the team. We work on it more and more until it becomes second nature.”
Success has become second nature for the Muskogee girls. They have qualified for state in all three events in all four years that seniors Lashai Nunley and Xandrea Maxwell have been running for coach Angie Hillmon.
This year, Nunley runs the third leg on the 400 and 800, while Maxwell runs the fourth (or anchor) leg in those events. In the 1,600, Maxwell is the second leg and Nunley is the anchor.
Maxwell worked herself to being a viable member of the unit.
“When I came here, I didn’t think I was fast enough to be on a relay,” she said. “The rest of the girls were faster than me. Everybody kept telling me that I was good in track and I listened to what coach Hillmon told me about the relays.
“The key to being successful is beating the person in front of you. Everybody has to do their own part in a relay because if you don’t, it’ll screw it up for the rest of us.”
The other members of the girls relays include Myangel Thomas and Zamaree McNac. McNac runs the second leg on all three, while Lillian Thompson runs in place of Thomas on the first leg in the 400.
Adjusting to new relay members hasn’t been a problem for Nunley.
“You get used to running with someone after a while,” she said. “I just tell my teammates to keep pushing and I’ll keep encouraging them. Like this week, we’ve worked hard in practice and I think we’ll do well at state. All of the practice will pay off for us.”
So far, the Lady Roughers rank in the state’s top 10 in each event. Their best times this season include 50.37 seconds (400), 1:46.3 (800) and 4:12.5 (1,600). The boys quartet has a best time of 44.0, and the 10th best time in the event this season is Putnam City North’s 43.16.
McVay has a new set of teammates this season with freshmen Matthew Maxwell and Tyreke Beasley and junior Alex Sharp.
“It’s just been a matter of coaching up the younger guys,” he said. “They just have to adjust to the better competition because they’ve been racing against guys their own age. Sure, there’s some butterflies but if you prepare can alleviate the pressure.”
Running preliminaries and finals start at 1 p.m. today and Saturday.