Girls Track: When gun sounds, Naperville Central’s sprint relay team clicks

Girls State Track Meet

Where: O’Brien Field, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston

When: Friday: Class 3A field events, noon; Class 3A track events, 12:55 p.m. Saturday: track and field finals in all classes, 10 a.m.

Local qualifiers with sectional marks:

Class 3A

Long jump: Maya Neal, Neuqua Valley, 18-5.

Pole vault: Stephanie Mueller, Naperville North, 10-6; Brittany Mitchell, Naperville Central, 10-0.

High jump: Kenna Lonergan, Neuqua Valley, 5-7.

Shot put: Courtney Morgan, Metea Valley, 43-4; Olivia Griswold, Neuqua Valley, 41-9; Holly Julifs, Metea Valley, 40-0; Morganne Freeman, Naperville North, 38-2. Triple jump: Elise Chao, Naperville North, 35-9.5.

Discus: Holly Julifs, Metea Valley, 139-11; Courtney Morgan, Metea Valley, 135-8; Morganne Freeman, Naperville North, 116-2.

3,200 relay: Naperville North, 9:27.22, Naperville Central, 9:28.50.

400 relay: Naperville Central, 49.17, Waubonsie Valley, 49.59.

3,200 run: Elly DeTurris, Naperville North, 11:01.36; Claire Hamilton, Naperville North, 11:07.68; Claire Costelloe, Neuqua Valley, 11:10.08; Kendall Cast, Metea Valley, 11:13.56: Ellie Marcet, Naperville Central, 11:14.31: Katie Hoffman, Naperville Central, 11:15.25.

100 dash: D’Jenne Egharevba, Naperville Central, 12.70.

800 run: Allison Wilson, Waubonsie Valley, 2:15.80; Katie Sheehan, Neuqua Valley, 2:17.70.

800 relay: Naperville Central, 1:44.33; Waubonsie Valley, 1:44.35.

300 hurdles: Maya Neal, Neuqua Valley, 45.70.

1,600 run: Maria McDaniel, Naperville North, 5:07.86.

1,600 relay: Waubonsie Valley, 4:04.27

A successful sprint relay in track is about more than speed.

It’s requires timing on the exchange. And that involves trust.

Naperville Central’s group seems to have that down.

“I think there is less pressure on you if you are friends,” Redhawks senior Lauren Erickson said. “You know you can rely on them.”

Erickson is one of a Redhawks foursome hoping to go out on the medal stand this weekend at the Class 3A state track and field meet.

Last year Erickson, Mary Beth Blank and D’Jenne Egharevba teamed with Rachel Skinner to place seventh in the 400 relay and sixth in the 800 relay.

With Skinner graduated, Sam Ward moved into the lineup with fellow seniors Erickson and Blank and sophomore Egharevba. The Redhawks have the sixth-fastest qualifying time of 1:44.33 and 11th-fastest 400 of 49.17 heading into Friday prelims.

“They’re about where they were a year ago, if not a little bit faster,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “The key right now is being able to get clean runs on Friday and try to qualify to get into finals. Once you get into the final nine anything can happen.”

Watching the four girls interact in practice, it’s easy to see why they flow so seamlessly on the track. They laugh and finish sentences like old friends. In some cases, they are.

Erickson, Blank and Ward have all run track at Naperville Central for four years. Erickson and Blank were part of a foursome that set a junior varsity 400 record as freshmen. Soon after, they were bumped up to the varsity relay. Egharevba, Erickson and Blank have all been part of the same relay for two years running.

Blank, who runs anchor, said she reads third runner Erickson’s body language and can tell how fast she is coming, to gauge how fast she needs to go out. As they well know, a slow or fumbled exchange is game over in the split-second fine line of sprint relays.

Erickson will watch how her teammates run in practice to measure what she needs to do.

“You need to know how fast they start out, how the other person runs,” Erickson said. “Not necessarily studying them, but knowing when to hand off.”

Egharevba will also run the 100-meter dash at state and has the school record in the event, but admits, “My times are so much better in the relay than open races.”

Blank has a theory why.

“Relays, you’re running for each other. Sometimes when you’re running in individual races you don’t have that motivation,” Blank said. “You don’t want to let your teammates down.”

Then there are girls like Ward and Erickson, who have carved their niche in the relays.

“If you look at Lauren and Sam, neither of them had a ton of success in open races, but when they get in the relays they are pretty quick,” Stine said, “and they feel confident in one another. For some athletes, if they are running for someone else, they seem to find another gear.”

The girls won every outdoors 800 relay, until getting clipped by Minooka at sectionals. But at that same meet they avenged an earlier loss to Waubonsie Valley in the 400.

After this weekend they will part ways. Blank will study nursing at Illinois State and may join the equestrian team. Erickson plans to pursue a degree in law enforcement at Concordia Mequon and may run track there. Ward will attend College of DuPage.

“The ride home, we are going to be sobbing,” Blank said. “It’s sad because we won’t be a team anymore. Win or lose, we’re going to have fun this weekend.”

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