4x400 team pulls off big win

A year ago, the Douglas girls' track team walked away from the Northern 4A Regional championships in dead last.

No individual titles, no state qualifiers.

A full year and a series of fortuitous events later, the Lady Tigers left regionals last week with qualifiers in four events, three school records and a regional title in the 4x400 relay.

"If you told me at the beginning of the season that our girls would wind up as the fourth best team in the region, I would have laughed," Douglas coach Rick Brown said. "We were dead last, last year.

"Coming into the season we had no idea. We knew we had some athletes, but three of our state qualifiers came out of nowhere."

Leading the way for the Tigers was the 4x400 relay squad of Alicia Sturgess, Tina Dantin, Sarah Hartley and Skylar Young.

The team blew past the competition, beating its closest competitor by more than six seconds.

That this particular lineup even found its way together was more or less a stroke of coincidence.

"We went out to Fallon for the Outer Relays over Spring Break," Douglas girls' coach Jim Abbott said. "We were missing a lot of kids, so basically on the bus we were just trying to fill out all of the relays. I told them basically to throw together whatever relays they wanted."

One member of the 4x400 team was visiting colleges over the break and the other had suffered a season-ending injury the previous week at the Reed Invitational.

Sturgess, Dantin, Hartley and Young approached Abbott about running the race.

"Alicia was supposed to be running in a number of other events but they really wanted to run as a team, so we sacrificed one of her distance events," Abbott said.

The team went out and ran a 4:10, a full 14-second improvement on the team's previous best, to win the race.

"I was coming out of my skin, trying to get Rick on the phone to tell him what happened," Abbott said. "From that point we knew we had something special.

"Skylar and Alicia had only been doing distance work up to that point, so neither one had really done any speed work, so I knew their times would come down," Abbott, who is also the team's distance coach, said.

"Tina and Sarah had both just been doing the 100 and the 200, so they were doing all speed work and didn't have the endurance really built up for the 400 yet," Brown, who doubles as the team's sprint coach, said.

At the regional qualifiers, the team went out and ran a 4:04.

"After we ran that, coaches were coming by and congratulating us on having such a great team," Brown said. "But I think in the back of their minds they were thinking they'd still come back and get us at regionals."

But the team eclipsed the school record and took the regional title Saturday at Reno High with a 4:00.21.

"We're just waiting for this week (state championships at Reno) because these girls have not yet had to run from behind," Abbott said. "There's been nobody with them after the first leg and they're all by themselves running these times.

"Those Vegas schools. we'll either be chasing them or they'll be chasing us. Either way it'll make for a great competition."

The 4x400 was far from the Tigers' only highlight Saturday.

Hartley took second int he 200 (26.06) and second in the triple jump (36-6, a school record) and barely missed qualifying for state in the 100, finishing fourth with a 12.88.

Young qualified in the 400, setting a school record in 59.58 and Sturgess took fourth in the high jump at 4-8 but missed out on state due to a missed lower height.

Freshman Jessica Gorton set PRs in the long jump (16-2) and the triple jump (34-8) for fifth and sixth place respectively.

"Jessica was the only freshman to qualify for the finals in both events," Brown said. "That was quite an accomplishment in itself, but to Pr in both events with all the pressure of trying to qualify for state was absolutely incredible."

On the boys' side, Ryan Bertucci qualified for state by taking second in the high jump with a PR of 6-6.

Spencer Lewis narrowly missed out on a state berth by finishing fourth in the 800 with a PR of 2:02.10.

Also scored points for the boys team was Kyle Heidt with a PR in the high jump (5-10) and a sixth place finish.

Tyler Tinstman took eighth in the 200 (23.36), the 4x200 relay squad of Michael Banks, Tristan Bates, Heidt and Tinstman took sixth (1:33.62) and the 4x400 team of Bates, Banks, Lewis and Derrik Jenkins took eighth in 3:45.20.

"We had an injury to Will Sheerin in the triple jump which caused us to have to make a change on the two relays and that slowed us up a bit but each of those guys deserve a pat on the back for not giving up."

The Nevada 4A State Championships are on Friday and Saturday at Reno High School.

-- Joey Crandall can be reached at jcrandall@recordcourier.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.


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