Freshman Tony Holding is far ahead of the pack down the backstretch.
As the second leg on the Central Springs 4x100-meter relay, Holding is currently the fastest.
Think of an individual relay team as an ever-changing puzzle: each runner an ornate puzzle piece to put together the perfect picture. But like each relay, every puzzle is different, and puts together its own picture.
The classic idea is that you put your fastest runner, the anchor, at the end to pull ahead. But the Panthers approach it differently.
“We make Tony run a lot longer at about 118 meters,” head coach Brian Fessler said. “We give him the stick really early and hand it off really late. Then, my third place runner runs shortest distance, but he has to be meticulous with the handoff.”
Holding runs the longest distance because he’s the fastest of the four this week.
Sophomore Dylan Marker was the third leg with the most technical handoff.
“Dylan Marker, great little athlete, you can put him in hurdles, put him in long jump, put him in distance, extremely intelligent kid,” Fessler said. “My third runner has to do a lot of things right.”
He finds senior Zack Santee’s hand to finish it off, where the Panthers finish 1.78 seconds in front of the second place team.
Santee is a 230-pound running back for the football team, someone you wouldn’t expect to be a two-time veteran state-qualifier in the 100.
He’s one of two seniors on the relay team next to Sebastian Beck, who had started the relay out of the blocks at Osage on Thursday, April 12.
Santee looks over to the board to check their time and Beck walks over, saying he thinks the time tonight was faster than the one on Tuesday at Iowa Falls-Alden. The handoffs had felt smooth.
But the two are disappointed to find out their time was .33 seconds slower at 45.85. They’re running out of time to qualify for their final Drake Relays.
“It's getting close with all the weather and everything,” Santee said. “Getting to the wire, hopefully we can get it done, we've been really antsy.”
Holding is surprised by the time, but he’s just happy to be running in a meet on varsity.
“Track is the one sport I look forward to most of the year,” Holding said. “I felt like absolutely nothing down that straight. I had a clear mind, took my deep breaths and went for it. It feels great to finally be up here and work with all my teammates, guys I really look up to.”
The cutoff for the Drake Relays qualifiers is Thursday, April 19. The top 80 4x100 relay teams make the trip and the Panthers’ 45.52 at Iowa Falls edges them in at No. 77.
Fessler believes it will take a time in the low 45s to secure the team’s spot.
“We’ve to find a way to get a little bit faster, tweak a little more, tend to do it a little bit different,” Fessler said. “I think this group of kids can run under 45, just haven't had the opportunity to do that.”