Speed, of course, is an important factor in having a successful relay team in high school. But Lakes coach Willis Freeman knows it takes more than just being fast to win races and post a time that others aspire to beat.
It takes some magic.
Freeman’s 400-meter boys relay team is made up of seniors Aamaree Harrington and Zarrion Hill, and sophomores Dorien Simon and Marquees Wade, who ran a 42.49 on March 30 against Mount Tahoma — the top time in the state this season in any classification.
Simon, Hill and Wade were a part of the Lancers’ relay team a year ago, but it wasn’t until Harrington enrolled at Lakes after moving from Germany that the team took off.
“We added (Aamaree) and it just kind of came together and all of the sudden, bop, we got the magic right there,” Freeman said. “He was the one that basically put the puzzle together for us.”
Simon is the fastest of the four but it was Harrington’s presence that seemed to unify the team.
“It’s like stirring a big bowl of chocolate chip cookies,” Freeman said. “You get it all blended up and you put it in the oven and away it goes.”
That mark has held up for over a month, but the group still has lofty goals. As the season winds down, Hill, Harrington, Simon and Wade hope to continue to lower that time.
“Our goal is, of course, to win state, but our main goal is to get in the 41s or the 40s,” Wade said. “That’s our main goal this season. We’re hoping to get to the 40s at state because that’s when we will be in tip-top shape.”
All four members of the team seem to be in a race against themselves. They talk less about beating the competition and more about lowering their time.
“These guys know they’re fast, and they want to be faster,” Freeman said. “They want to go into the 41s, and probably here in the next few weeks, you’ll see them go into the 41s. As the weather gets better and we start to get more competition and close to state, they’ll start picking it up really easy.”
Part of the team’s success is due to the order in which they run. Hill’s strength is he rarely false starts and gets out to an early lead. With his background in the 200 and 400 meters, Harrington is one of the team’s stronger runners. Simon is the fastest and good around the turns, while Wade can chase down the opponent if the team is trailing, or hold them off if the team is ahead.
Being the anchor can be stressful, but Wade says his teammates are always supportive.
“It’s added pressure because if you have the lead and they catch up behind you, it feels like it’s kind of your fault because you let the whole team down,” Wade said. “My team, they’re pretty friendly. If they do ever catch me they’re like, ‘Don’t worry about it, next race we got it.’”
It helps that Wade has rarely been caught this season.
Three of the four members of the team played football this past year and they all worked out together in the offseason, where they bonded and became good friends.
“We did definitely make some connections in our previous sports together,” Simon said. “I do think in the offseason training that we did, when we’re just kind of out here on the track by ourselves because our coach couldn’t really be with us, we definitely kind of connected in that aspect as well. And we do hang out outside of practice and bond.”
In addition to the 400 relay, Simon may also find individual success in the 100 at this year’s state meet. His best time this season of 10.98 ranks fourth among 3A runners.
“I think he can win the 100,” Freeman said. “I’ve been working with him on his starts and everything. He’s tweaked it a little bit to where he gets out a little quicker now. … It’s starting to click right now.”