4×100 = fast at Eagle Valley
Eagle Valley Track coach Jeff Schroll beams like a little kid who knows he has the best model train kit in the neighborhood when he watches his 400-meter relay team run.
The Devils quartet of Wes Minett, Brad Gamble, Russell Allen and Sean Matheson is fast – the fastest in 3A and the fastest ever at Eagle Valley.
“I’ve seen fast relay teams, but I tell you what, even in practice it makes my mouth just water when they run,” Schroll said. “That’s of course if they get their hand on the baton and they’re not screwing around. I’ve never had such four fast guys.”
Schroll is serious when he talks about the importance of getting hands on the baton. Every time the team has run this year, it has won, aside from the Moffat County Invitational on May 1 when a dropped baton cost the Devils the race.
“The only time when it was close this year was when we dropped the baton and DQ’d ourselves.” Schroll said. “In the 4-by-2 at state, they will have to earn a first place. It’s going to be very difficult and there are a lot of teams stacked up right with them. But in the 4-by-1, if their handoffs are perfect, then there is just nobody there – nobody – that can beat them.”
All four team members agreed, declaring that anything less than a first-place finish at state would be a disappointment.
“We’ve just been blowing the competition away. So, we know we can do it,” Minett said.
“It’s just all a matter of getting the handoffs,” added Gamble. “If we can get them, then I don’t think anyone in the state can get us. It’s just such a short race that any little thing can blow it.”
Your order, please?
Schroll said that every track coach has a different philosophy when it comes to relay order, and that each one thinks theirs is right.
His strategy of putting the fastest runner of the group on the second leg, and the second-fastest on the tail leg, like he had done in the past, seemed to be the most sound.
But, then it wasn’t.
Instead of Matheson running the second leg, Schroll found that the speedy sophomore was better suited for running the anchor stretch, while Gamble, the second fastest on the team was a good fit in the two-spot.
Minett was the ideal fit as the starter, because as Schroll so adeptly explained, he is the best at, well, starting.
“My strength is starting,” Minett said, conferring with his coach’s logic. “Brad and Sean are really fast. I think in a 100, Sean would have him, but still, Brad is probably the second-fastest out of all of us. When you put Sean at the end, he’s reliable to catch somebody, if we need to.”
As the only senior on the relay team, Russell fit in as an ideal third-leg man, because the spot calls for someone with baton experience, who is comfortable in handling two exchanges.
The order may not be the conventional one to which Schroll is accustomed, but it definitely is the right one, of course, because the team has been unbeatable so far this year.
“Sometimes, we already have our last handoff done before some teams have even gotten to the third stage,” said Minett.
“We usually take the lead in the second or third stage,” Russell added.
“We smashed (the school record) the first time we ran,” said Minett.
“The first home meet we got it,” Russell said. “After just one practice.”
The Matheson factor
No doubt, a good relay team is the sum of four quality parts, each doing their respective tasks.
With that being noted, there is also no denying that without the addition of Matheson, the team wouldn’t be the best in 3A with its state-leading time of 43.69 seconds.
The soft-spoken sophomore, who hadn’t even run track before this year, has quickly established himself as the fastest Devil to ever run at Eagle Valley.
Actually, it took him only one meet to do that after he broke the school’s 100-meter record.
To be more precise, Matheson has quickly established himself as the fastest sprinter in 3A, having run the fastest 100 meters in 3A this season at 11.10.
“The first meet of his life, he broke the school record in the 100, and he came back to me and said, ‘How was that, Coach? Was that good, Coach?” Schroll said jokingly. “I was like, ‘Yeah, we can work with that.'”
The scary thing too, is that the speediest Devil of them all still has two years of high school left.
“My parents just kept telling me that I should try track,” Matheson said. “A bunch of people kept telling me that I should come out. I play football, and I thought that it would help me get faster.”
Gamble said that as soon as he heard that Matheson was going to join the team, he got excited.
“Just getting Sean on the team, I knew that we’d be good,” he said. “With me and Russell and Wes, I didn’t think anybody would be able to catch us. So far, we’ve done real well.”
The final leg
Despite reason to be jubilant, each of the four along with Schroll know that their most important test is still ahead of them.
It’s neat to be the best in 3A throughout the season, but the real prize is to finish with that same title at state.
And, maybe even end up as the No. 1 overall team at state as well.
“These guys can run (in 42 seconds) if they want,” Schroll said “At regionals this weekend, our guys have a great chance to win the meet. At state, it’s just super hard to predict, because the best of the best get there. I think we’ve got a great chance to place really well, though.”
Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.