The Huskies 3200: Four for one
EAGLE-VAIL – Battle Mountain track and field coach Rob Parish has been quick to point out this week that his Carson High School (Nev.) squad ran the 3,200-meter relay in 8 minutes, 6 seconds.That isn’t a coincidence. Going into the 4A state meet, the Huskies 3,200 team has run it in 8:07. “Yeah, he’s talked about it several times,” said Grant Stevenson, while rolling his eyes a little.Parish may be using 8:06 as motivation, but the quartet of Shea Phelan, Zach Erickson, Travis Landauer and Stevenson, as well as alternate Derek Byron, really haven’t needed much this season. The crew has blown away the school record by 22 seconds and won regionals last weekend. Entering Liberty Stadium in Denver Saturday morning, the Huskies will have logged the fourth-fastest 3,200 relay in 4A.Phelan, Erickson, Landauer and Stevenson came close to the school mark and a state berth last year. This year, the team rededicated itself. Erickson and Stevenson ran cross country in the fall. While Stevenson was off winning the Skimeister, something that will get you in fine shape for track, Phelan, Erickson and Landauer worked out with Parish three times per week during the winter.”It was awesome. It made like a huge step in my running,” Erickson said “I think the long distances really gave me a base for track. The preseason training was awesome, getting out there for three days a week. Putting on a ton of miles really helped me.””It’s no accident that these guys are where they are,” Parish said. “They worked incredibly hard to get to this point. The difference between this year and last is experience No. 1 and then they have trained all year for this. It hasn’t been three-month season for these kids.”Building the 3,200The 400 relay gets the glamour. Just take a look at Eagle Valley’s Gamble brothers (Brad and Alex), Sean Matheson and Wes Minett. The 1,600 often has the spotlight because it’s the last event of a meet and can decide a championship. Again look at the Devils. The 1,600 clinched state for Eagle Valley last year.The 3,200? It’s long. It’s also hard to put together a team. The 800 is a tough race to run. It requires the speed of sprints and the endurance – both mentally and physically of the 1,600 and 3,200.
Most teams have a good 800 runner. Some have two as does Vail Christian in Molly McGee and Rachel Glandorf. But finding four and getting them on the same wavelength is another thing.That’s what Phelan, Erickson, Landauer and Stevenson have done. In doing so, the 3,200 is hip at Battle Mountain.”It’s the first event in the meet (for boys), so it sets the tone,” Parish said. “On this team, it’s turned into the high-profile event. It’s the event we’ve had success in. It’s the event everybody on the track team gets excited about. It’s a rallying point.”Growing up with trackPhelan is not a stranger to track and field. His dad, Pat, has coached for years in the sport at Battle Mountain. Nevertheless, he finds his position to be a little strange.”It’s kind of weird,” Shea said. “I’ve always looked at the guys my dad’s coached and all the track runners in the past and I’ve always put them on a pedestal. Now, it’s kind of weird to see me in that light.”To put this into perspective, when he and the 3,200 team broke the school record, they were breaking the mark set in 1992. That was the only time the Huskies boys won state and the team was coached by Bob Isbell and Pat Phelan.While Parish insists that he could mix and match his lineup, there’s been enough time to tweak the order to get optimum performance. Shea is best out of the blocks.”Shea runs the best when he has someone to run with,” Phelan said. “We put him at the start because he does a god job of maintaining contact with the first runner. A lot of time, (other teams) put their fastest runner either first or last and Shea does a fantastic job of keeping us in the race. He’s incredibly fast in the first 200 meters and is able to hold it.”Phelan hands off to Erickson, who is a state veteran of cross country. Erickson humbly says he’s not the fastest on the team, but there’s also probably a reason. In addition to qualifying for state with the 3,200 team, he’s running in the open 3,200.”The 2-mile is on Friday, so I’ll have a rest before Saturday,” he said. “But it is a big difference running the 800 and the 2-mile. It’s more team oriented being in the 4-by-8. I can’t let down my team. It’s just running your heart out for two laps in the 800. In the 2-mile, it’s trying to hit your goal for every lap, trying to be consistent.”
Parish views Erickson as one of the stronger second legs in the 3,200.”Zach has gained this year a killer finish and is able to make up ground,” the coach said. “Very few teams will have a second runner as strong as Zach. He’s our equalizer. He just catches people.”The newbie and the anchorLast year, Parish had Phelan, Erickson and Stevenson. All he needed was a fourth. Enter Landauer. Then a sophomore, he was the perfect fit, slipping into the third spot.”Travis is probably one of the best athletes in the school to start with,” Parish said. “He’s super athletic and competitive. His personality clicked with the guys. This year, he’s had the training behind it, too.”Landauer had the speed, and now with work, he has the endurance to accompany it.”It was kind of intimidating at first because they were so fast,” Landauer said. “I had just gotten into it. I got to know them and they’re really cool guys. We’re just so close. It’s unbelievable. We know what each other is thinking like when we’re doing warmups. We know everything the other guy is going to do. It’s just great.”Whatever the position the team is in going into the fourth and final lap, the Huskies are in good hands. It’s Stevenson time.”Grant is our anchor,” Parish said. “He never lets anybody pass him. He always passes someone at the finish. He has an assassin’s mentality at the end of the race.”The 3,200 will be the finale of Stevenson’s much-acclaimed career. He led the boys cross country team to its best finish in school history in the fall and holds the school’s 5K record. In the winter, he won the aforementioned Skimeister, becoming the best all-around skier in Colorado high school skiing. Stevenson had another chance for individual glory last weekend. He was one second off the school’s 1,600 mark, but chose to go all out in the 3,200 relay which ran before his individual race. The 3,200 team won the title, but Stevenson was too spent and finished eighth in the mile and out of state qualifying.
This weekend, it’s all about being the closer.”Anchor is basically what the word means,” Stevenson said. “You’re holding the team down. It all comes down to you. If you screw up, it doesn’t matter what everyone else did, It’s all about you. It’s a lot of pressure to have.”Normally, it’s go as fast as I can for the first lap and go equally as fast or faster in the second lap. I’m going to leave everything out there for that last 200, just kick.”8 minutes?D’Evelyn is the favorite this weekend, having logged a 7:55. Sierra, Broomfield and Battle Mountain are bunched around 8:07. The Huskies are going down 3,000 feet, so their time should go down.There’s also the issue that at state meets the field inevitably goes out faster, producing lower times. So, what time will the Huskies log?”I’d like to see each of them have their best day, and then they’ll have their best day as a group,” Parish said. “I think they can be very close to the 8-minute mark.””Overall, I’d like to say that we’re going to break that 8-minute barrier,” Phelan said. “We’ll definitely shoot for it. With the adrenaline, I can see us doing something.”Either scenario would do the trick, though – beating Parish’s 8:06.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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