Four girls combined to have a historic finish for the Southwest Christian High School track and field program this season, placing first and second in the 4x100m and 4x200m relays and breaking school records in both events at the 2022 Class 2A state meet June 9-11.
At the beginning of the season during workouts and before any competitions had commenced, however, the four were not sure how this season was going to turn out. Senior Callie Coughlin and junior Mehlayna Straub were two experienced runners who had qualified for the state meet in previous years, but sophomore Ada Dekkers and freshman Grethe Helseth were inexperienced in their own ways. Helseth had competed in middle school track and field until eighth grade but had never been on a varsity team, while Dekkers had never even ran track.
“Track is totally different, there is so much running volume,” Dekkers said. “The first week I realized how totally unfit I was. Track is tough, and I did really like it, it was fun.”
Dekkers also played volleyball and basketball, but her friends Straub and fellow track and field teammate Kaitlyn Wercinski convinced her to participate in the spring sport.
As the season went along, the runners began to realize their potential and felt they could record fast times in each relay. While track and field is filled with individual events, the experience throughout the spring was better as a team.
“Competing when you’re alone is not as fun,” Helseth said. “You feel more supported when you’re with a couple more people during a race.”
As the lone senior a part of the relays, Coughlin appreciated the opportunity to compete at state for a variety of reasons. She qualified for state in eighth grade, also in the 4x100m relay, but the team was disqualified for dropping the baton. She missed her sophomore season to the pandemic and could not compete during her junior season for medical reasons.
Leading up to the meet, the key aspect the team worked on was handoffs. The Stars felt confident because of the support system they built among each other. Straub was the anchor for both relays, and in the 4x100m she was excited about the opportunity to bring it home for her teammates.
“After I saw Callie, Ada and Greta do well in the race, I needed to cross the finish line first and do my part. It was great to see the look on the girls’ faces, it was really fun. All that hard work we had been putting in really paid off,” Straub said.
The Stars finished first with a time of 49.11 seconds in the 4x100m relay, and followed that up with a second place finish in the 4x200m at 1:43.92. After the performance, there was plenty of celebration by the team.
“There were lots of hugs, we didn’t really know what to say so we just kept hugging each other,” Coughlin said.
While exciting, the ending marks a turning point for all of the girls. Coughlin will be walking on at Liberty University for track and field, while Straub, Dekkers and Helseth will look for new legs to add to the relay or try to qualify for next season’s state meet in other events. But this will be a moment they will never forget.