Last year at the Class 4A state track and field championships at Mount Tahoma Stadium, Rogers High’s 4x100 meter relay team had a record-breaking day.
The Rogers 4x100 meter relay team of Alwin Sacro, Eric Simpson, Ceth Edwards and Kyler Ooley set a new school record of 42.35 seconds while finishing in second place.
“Since I’ve been here, Rogers has been fortunate to have our 4x100 relay team reach state all but one year,” Rogers boys track coach Dan Carlson said. "Sacro’s start out of the block really put them in a good position and everything clicked."
Going into the last race of the season, the team felt something might happen. The foursome was building to this point all year after not starting the season the way it wanted.
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"We started kind of slow at the beginning of the season," said Sacro, the team’s lead runner. "But we started to pick it up at the end of the season."
Sacro’s jump out of the box pushed Rogers into the lead early in the race. University of Washington standout hurdler Simpson took it from there, zipping down the track toward Edwards.
“Alwin always has great starts, and Eric was able to continue what Alwin started," Edwards said. "I didn’t know what was happening after I handed the baton off to Kyler. It’s hard to see from behind — it looked really close."
As Edwards took his short stroll after crossing the finish line for his traditional run-and-bump celebration with Ooley, he saw an entirely different scene barrel toward him.
"I didn’t know what happened but I saw Kyler just jump in the air and start celebrating," Edwards recalled. "He ran back and told me we just took second and broke our school record ... it feels great to have the school record."
This year, there’s a new mindset going around the Rogers relay team. The foursome isn’t interested in just racing as well as it did last season — the group wants to set a new school record.
"We came in wanting to break the record again," Ooley said. "We’re racing better early in the season and now we feel we can take that record again."
Down a quarter
The graduated Simpson now putting on shows up in Seattle for the Husky track team. Replacing a sprinter who not only helped set a new Rogers record but also tried to break the state record in the 110-meter hurdles is incredibly hard.
So it’s not a surprise that Nick Bullo, the guy who shadowed Simpson for years, would step up.
"At the beginning of the season, Nick came to me and said he wanted to take Eric’s spot on the team," Carlson said. "He ran a really good 100-meter and 400-meter, so we put him on the team."
Of course there’s been some growing pains this year as Bullo has had to re-learn the skill of taking a hand-off. This is where understanding your teammates really matters.
Relay teams have to "feel" the presence of the hand-off blindly while starting their own jump in the race. It’s not easy to just plant a new face into the lineup.
"I’ve done relays before — just not since junior high," Bullo said. "We already hang around each other, and are comfortable with one another."
So far, Rogers’ new look relay team has hit its stride early in the season. The team has clocked a 43.82 finish in the event — already better than the last year’s team at this part of the season.
Bullo has fit in nicely into the equation.
"Nick has similar length to Eric, so there wasn’t any difficulty in adjusting to him," Sacro said. "With him also doing hurdles and the 400 (meter) like Eric did, he fit in easily with us."
The first target of this new relay team hopefully comes Saturday (April 18) at the Oregon Relay at the University of Oregon in Eugene. If the Rogers team can make the cut, big things could happen.
"I don’t like to make any guarantees about this team, but if we can get to the Oregon Relays, I think they could do well," Carlson said. "They already came up to me saying they wanted to all room together … they’re that close."
And that much closer to another record-setting year.