Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hingham Girls Track Captures DIII State Relay Title

Please feel free to add, delete, or edit any part of this.  I hope you can use it.

-Dawn Diedricksen

Hingham Girls Track Coach

Hingham Girls Track Captures DIII State Relay Title

The Hingham Girls Track team did not get on the bus thinking they had a chance at a State Relay Title Saturday morning.  "I didn't mention the word Win to the girls once," remarked Coach Diedricksen.  "We had an emotional week this week.  We came a few points short of a league meet win versus Plymouth North this week that will likely cost us the Patriot League Title.    This was our first league meet loss since 2010.  The loss this week really brought our team together.   The captains and coaches talked about team pride more than anything this week.  Captain Sarah Endyke moved everyone at practice this past Thursday when she stood up to address the team about the blame that an athlete might place on themselves as an individual after such a team loss.  Her words lifted that blame off everyone; she said the win was not what we were about, and that she was more proud of the team for the effort, enthusiasm, dedication, and determination to succeed that they showed.   We lost, but lost fighting and cheering harder than we had all season.  That was the feeling that Captain Endyke said she would remember.  We lost hearing the screams of encouragement from our team, and lost pushing our bodies to the limits in every event." 

 "One of our athletes, Teresa Bandera, wrote to me that she couldn't agree more with Captain Sarah Endyke's words -that it almost made her cry.  She said the loss would make them work 10 times harder than a win ever would."

When the girls stepped on the bus, they may not have been thinking about a win, but they were thinking about their love for their team.  They had no pressure to win the title, but they had serious goals about the effort they wanted to put into their races, jumps, and throws.  The State Relay meet has always been a favorite of Hingham.  In the last 4 years, they won 3 times, and came second last year.     "This win felt like a real team effort.  In other years, we had a few superstar and full NCAA DI scholarship athletes that made winning specific events more like a certainty.  This year the team really pulled together to capture this win." 

The hurdle Shuttle Relay started the meet off for Hingham (Amy Kirk, Claire Stone, Zoe Dainton, Alexandra Colby).  The girls were not expecting to score, but came away with third place.  That success in the early event really started things off for Hingham.   You could tell team moral was climbing.  The general feeling was, "Wait….we weren't supposed to score in hurdles and we got 3rd……maybe we can do better than our seed."   

This was followed by a 4th in the 4x50 shuttle relay (Sarah Endyke, Elise Birkhauser,   Maddie Chan, Emily Brazel).  "At one point during the planning of the meet, unknown to the athletes, we almost were going to take Amy Kirk out of the hurdles to strengthen the 4x50.  We opted for a more balanced approach and it paid off.  The sprinters and hurdlers were on fire."

The 4x800 (Captain Paige King, Jackie Harrington, Emma Burleigh, and Heather Linscott) next took a 6th place.  In the state relay meet, the top 6 places score (10-8-6-4-2-1).  This single point would later prove to be instrumental in the 1 point victory over Hopkinton.   "I have been so proud of this group this year.  Paige King is a true leader, Emma Burleigh is tough as nails, Heather Linscott is our secret weapon, and Jackie Harrington has trained her way from a freshmen newbie last year, to a key varsity player this year."

Hingham's next challenge was the 4x200m and the high jump starting at virtually the same time.   "We had to steal Amy out of the marshaling area and use another team member as a place holder while we had her run over to high jump to get her practice approach runs in.  She had to check out of high jump to run the 4x200, which involved missing the option of jumping at the opening height."   

At that point, everyone's eyes were on the 4x200 (Amy Kirk, Marykate Brennan, Elise Birkhauser, Sarah Endyke).  Before the meet (with a win out of his thoughts), Sprints Coach Andy Wayne asked them to do one thing.  He wanted the incoming runner to run as hard as they could though the zone, and the outgoing runner to take off as hard as they possibly could.  It was the incoming runner's job to catch them.  They needed to trust their teammate.  He said he would rather see them drop a baton then not run as hard as they could through the zone.   The girls took 3 seconds off their time from just 2 days before and won the 4x200m for the meet.   Captains Amy Kirk and Sarah Endyke each took a second off their split time.   

The next scoring relay was high jump.  The relay is composed of 3 athletes that get 3 attempts at each height, but only 6 total jumps.  Choosing the correct opening height is part of the strategy, otherwise you lose attempts at your higher heights.   Amy Kirk didn't have much choice.  She missed the opening height during the 4x200, but successfully cleared 4'6".  Freshmen, Peyton Belsher, opened at 4'3" and ended up qualifying for States with her best jump at 4'8".  One of the happiest athletes was Zoe Dainton.  She started the season off with a 5'1" jump, but has been jumping 4'8" and 4'10" in the last few league meets.  She opened at 4'8", cleared 4'10", cleared 5" on her 3rd attempt after some last minute adjustments to her approach distance and the amount of lean she took into her curve.  She was left with one attempt to try 5'2" with one other athlete from another school.  Both girls missed it.  Her 5'0" jump in combination with Peyton's improvement and Amy's consistency and focus so soon after a 4x200 led them to a high jump 1st place.  This also broke our school high jump relay record.

Zoe Dainton, somewhere after her 4'8" attempts, had to check out of high jump to compete as part of the long jump relay team with Sarah Endyke and Emma Burleigh.   This was also Endyke's 3rd event of the day and Emma had previously scored as part of the 4x800m.  Sarah Endyke has been jumping further than she ever has this year.  She cracked 17' for the first time indoors at the Wednesday league meet.  Despite that success, Endyke fouled her first jump taking off 3 feet past the board.   "This is when you find out what your athletes are made of.  She had to trust her coach, move her mark 3 feet back, run with the exact same conviction and intensity or risk fouling out - costing the entire long jump relay team a result.  Endyke executed a conservative distance for her, but safely enough to ensure that the long jump relay would score – a score that would remain unknown until the other flights of girls finished. 

That's when the coaches really started to look harder at the team score.    Concord-Carlisle had been leading for the entire meet.  We knew we did well in the jumps, but didn't know what the other teams had for points until he officials confirmed it just before the start of the 4x400m.  Concord-Carlisle was at 35pts, and Hingham was at 31.  There were a few other teams in the mix too.  Hingham had a chance, but needed something big in the 4x400m
"That's when I "dropped the bomb" as my assistant Coach, Andy Wayne calls it when you tell a group of athletes their performance will determine a victory.  I found each of my 4x400m runners lined up ready to be marshaled onto the track.  'If you guys win, we can beat Concord-Carlisle for the win.  Their 4x400m team is not in the fast heat, and if you guys all run your best times from last spring, we can win.  Go out as hard as you can in the first 30m.  It is easier to ease up and float, then it is to try to increase your speed after your start.'   ….after that I stood beside the zone ready to scream or impart any intensity and adrenaline that I could possibly inject into them.   It worked.  The girls (Marykate Bennan, Emma Burleigh, Erin Hurley, and Heather Linscott) took nearly 11 seconds off their 4x400 time.   They committed to a fast first half of the race and had to trust that they could hang on for the part we call "the wall" – where the lactic acid makes your muscles feel like they might give out on you.  They all pushed through for the team and crossed the line in 4th place.   For a few minutes they were unsure how close they brought the team to a victory, but were proud of their improvement and effort.  Then the long jump results came in and it was confirmed.  Hingham won the State Relay title by 1 point.


The distance medley, Sprint Medley and Shot Put relays did not post a score, but came away with many personal best relay splits.  Hingham had some freshmen athletes and other JV athletes attend the meet as part of B teams.  Hingham tries to fill out as many relays as possible so that more of the team gets to feel the intensity of such a high level meet, and build experience for the following year when athletes may find themselves as part of an A team.  Emily Brazel is an example of that.  She ran in the 4x50 B team last year, and this year found herself contributing to a 4x50 A team third place. 

"The team was overjoyed.  After so much emotion this week, this win meant so much more.  I have never felt more team cohesiveness and shared pride. "   Peyton Belsher's grandfather assumed the role of team photographer, and the team couldn't stop hugging and talking about the key moments during the win.  After any State level win, Hingham always picks one athlete to take the trophy home.  Today the Coaching Staff collectively picked Amy Kirk.  Amy's relays scored 26pts (2 wins and a 3rd…all more than the coaches predicted).  The state relay trophy has traditionally been of a female runner crossing finish line.  Coach Diedricksen told the team that in prior years athletes have chosen a nickname for the trophy.   After some deliberation, Captain Sarah Endyke's suggestion stuck, they affectionately named her Victoria.

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