Lady Panthers mile relay captures Texas Relays title

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Liberty Hill’s girls mile relay team took first place with 3:55 at the Texas Relays Friday. Members of the team include, from left, Shaylin Vickers, Ana Rodriguez, Rachel Gallander and Lily Miller. (Laura Coleman Photo)

Liberty Hill’s girls mile relay team took first place with 3:55 at the Texas Relays Friday. Members of the team include, from left, Shaylin Vickers, Ana Rodriguez, Rachel Gallander and Lily Miller. (Laura Coleman Photo)

By LAUREN JETTE

After placing second in the girls mile relay at the Texas Relays last year, the Lady Panthers really wanted to better that mark in 2016. Even with that goal in mind, the runners surprised themselves with a personal best 3:55.55 to win the girls 4x400m relay title in Austin Friday night.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d get the time we got,” said Lily Miller. “When I looked up at the board, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, guys! We got 3:55!’ And they were like…yeah… But it was really awesome. My mouth dropped. It was a jaw-dropping moment.”

“It was definitely an unexpected time, but it was good,” said Shaylin Vickers.

“I was a little oxygen deprived after and so I didn’t really see the time until after I walked over to them and we all started hugging and they spilled water on me again, but it was great,” said Rachel Gallander, who ran the final leg of the relay. “I wasn’t expecting that time, but I’m glad that we got it.”

The team was hoping to lower their time from last year, but didn’t think they would shave that much time off their best at the Texas Relays.

“It didn’t really sink in. I honestly had no idea that we could have run that time so early in the season, just because we’d been running 4:02s and that is a good time,” said Ana Rodriguez. “We knew we wanted to compete and win but that time definitely wasn’t what I expected.”

Liberty Hill was one of 60 teams to participate in the relay and qualified second after running a 4:02.02 in the prelims. In the final, the Lady Panthers edged out Texarkana Liberty-Eylau, who took second in 3:59.76 and St. Dominic Savio, who placed third with a 4:02.02.

“They were very nonchalant about it. If they were excited about it, they hid it very well,” said head track coach Gretchen Peterson. “We knew they would drop time and we knew they were more mature. They had been there, so there was that experience under their belt, but for them to come out and compete… They race to win and it showed and they did a phenomenal job and it’s exciting for them.”

Two rain delays totaling almost three hours pushed the schedule of events back, which meant the prelims and finals that were originally scheduled for the afternoon didn’t happen until the evening. The delay was seen as an opportunity and a nuisance.

“At first I was okay with it, getting more time to just settle in and get used to what you’re around, but then once it was getting to where we were supposed to be running, it was like, man, I wish we were running now just to get it over with,” Vickers said.

“I went there wanting to get it over with, so that didn’t help much, but it gave me time to focus on the race,” Miller said.

“It definitely put more nerves on because you’re like, ‘oh, we have to do this’, but they kept pushing it off, so it kept getting more nerve-wracking. But we did it and we did well,” Gallander said.

“I didn’t think it was very good, because it gave us more time to think about, ‘wow, I’m about to go run a full out against these other people who are super good’,” Rodriguez said.

Regardless, the Lady Panthers kept their composure and ran the race they wanted.

“They handled it really well. They probably handled it better than us, we were just sitting there, waiting,” Peterson said. “They are really just a focused group. They know what they need to do, they are very mature for as young as they are. They take everything in stride. When there’s a new challenge in front of them, they go out and attack it, just the way that they race. If there’s a person in front of them, they are going after them.”

The girls 4x200m relay team also competed and placed ninth out of 33 teams after posting a 1:45.16 in the finals, only one second off their prelim time of 1:46.56. Lady Panthers on that relay are Hannah Smirl, Victoria Kelley, Rachel Gallander and Lily Miller.

The boys 4x100m relay team also competed on Saturday, and finished 26th out of 51 total teams, with a 44.73 in the prelims. Panthers on the relay are Dyllon Joiner, Grant Ornalez, Jon Shannon and Justin Wilson.

The track teams reassemble to compete at Patriot Relays at Georgetown East View High School Thursday in a final meet before heading to district meet at Burnet High School April 13-14.

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