Time tells all on the track whether you live in Los Angeles or Miami or Ellensburg. Start the clock, stop the clock, lowest time wins.

There’s just eight lanes where individual performers contribute to the collective whole. At the end of the day, those individual efforts come together to determine the team outcome. The offense can’t bail out a poor defensive showing.

It’s just time, and the low number wins.

Now there is a team component with the relays where four runners join forces for one time. But even with that, the 4x100 meter relay is a race like no other in the world of track and field. It’s just one time around, the stick changes hands three times. The trick is to blend four bodies, four minds, four souls into one precise action, like a school of fish changing direction.

The Ellensburg girls 4x100 goes into the 2A state track and field championships Thursday-Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma as the No. 1 ranked team from the Central Washington Athletic Conference, having set the new CWAC District 5/6 record (49.37 seconds) in the process.

Caitlyn Cheney, Karissa Littke, Morghan Nass and E’lexis Hollis will take their place on the big stage to see how they stack up against the 2A best of the best. They go into the meet as the second-ranked 2A team in the state. Only top-ranked Bremerton (49.22) has gone faster. Renton (49.68) is the only other team to have dipped under 50-seconds. With that being said, less than a second separates the next six teams outside of the top three.

Time will tell who steps to the top of the podium on the final weekend, but Bulldog fans can expect their team to burn the candle right down to a puddle with nothing left in the tank when they hit the finish line.

Every journey begins with the first step. Cheney (12.69), who is the third-ranked 100-meter runner in the District 5/6 rankings, puts it all in motion, running the first leg.

“We practice our handoff so many times it becomes instinct,” said Cheney, who is also ranked in the top 10 in the district 200 meters. “I try to get out as fast as I can to set things up. I had a good leg when we ran the 49.37 at districts. I think we can go faster if we can make the handoffs smoother.”

The key going into the first exchange is to make the handoff in traffic. All eight lanes generally reach the exchange zone at the same time. It gets a little hectic, but being smooth on the handoff is every bit as important as running fast.

“I try to break the stagger on my leg. I think it’s important for the rest of the race,” Littke said. “The second handoff is huge. Morghan and I have done a pretty good job. She has to hit the end of the exchange zone, ready to go at full speed, as I’m coming in. We’ve been able to make it pretty smooth, but if we can get it just a little better next week I think we can go faster.”

Speed thrills, and by the final curve things are starting to shake out. It doesn’t hurt to have the fourth fastest 200-meter runner in the district (Nass) running the final turn and the fastest 100-meter runner in the district (Hollis) on the anchor leg.

“I usually get the stick in traffic, but I really like running the curve,” said Nass, who is the regional long jump champion. “I guess I would say my job is run the curve strong and get E’lexis the baton with a lead. I really think if all goes right, we have a chance to go faster this week at state.”

Chances are they won’t touch the new high school national record DeSoto, Texas posted (44.24) earlier this month at the Class 6A state championship with a team that has two girls with NCAA Division I scholarships. But you can expect the Bulldogs to put it out there if Hollis has anything to say about it.

In running the anchor leg, the Ellensburg junior has a chance to see it all unfold, through the first curve, down the back straight, through the final curve right to her hand. Her adrenalin starts to churn, and like a thoroughbred being loaded into the gate, she knows it’s time to race.

“I just run. I try not to think about anything but running,” she said. “Even though I’m running down the grandstand stretch, it’s just noise. I don’t really hear anything.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate so far this year that my teammates get me the stick with a lead. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case at state with all those great teams, but I like a challenge and I think we’re going to do great.”

The race is on. They’ll run the second heat in prelims on Thursday with the idea of running faster than they ever have before on Championship Saturday in the big city and bright lights of the final meet of the season.


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