- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Huntingtown girls 800-meter relay team had an extremely productive indoor track and field season.
The foursome of junior Shania Collins, Rebecca Sweredoski, sophomore Clarke Hooper and senior Zanae Freeland — running in that order — began the postseason with second-place finishes at the SMAC and Class 3A East Region championships but captured a Class 3A state title by the smallest of margins. And it did so despite Sweredoski competing in her first-ever track and field event.
Recently, the girls spoke to The Recorder about the unbelievable race that ended with state gold.
Collins: “I definitely did [get a good start]. It was one of my best. I am usually slow, but that day I did good. The first leg is all about getting down and getting ahead of the others and making sure you have a good lead to give to the next person. We’ve been trying to improve [our handoffs] all year, but it was a pretty good one. It could have been better, though. I think I came in a bit hard [fast].”
Sweredoski: “I didn’t realize [she had come in too hard] because you’re just in a zone and you don’t think about it. You’re just thinking, ‘Run as hard as you can.’ Shania had that huge start so when I got the baton, I was like, ‘OK, I know I have to keep distance ahead of everyone else and try as hard as I can.’ That last turn and then the straightaway you just have to give it everything you have.”
Hooper: “I never think of what place we’re in, I just think of catching the person in front of me, so I just took [the baton] and took off. The girl ahead of me was a lot bigger than me, so I was sharing a lane with her and running next to her. If I cut in front of her, she gets shut down and if she cuts in front of me, I’m shut down and I’m like, ‘I’m not getting shut down, not this race.’
“There was also a girl from Milford Mill coming up behind us, so we were battling it out after that. I don’t know if I could say we were confident but we weren’t down in the gutter [despite trailing by almost a third of a lap]. I handed it off to Zanae and usually when I hand the baton off, I have that adrenaline in me and I’m like, ‘Just go, run for it,’ but I didn’t have to because I had run my all. That’s when I know I’ve run my all when I have no energy to say something to her. I had no energy to say anything to her, but it was OK because when I passed it, I felt she was ready for it.”
Freeland: “[The handoff] was pretty clean, but we were in second and it was a pretty big gap. I saw the Milford Mill [runner] start to slow down, so I started to speed up and catch her.”
Collins: “We were all screaming her name and cheering her on.”
Hooper: “She just chased her down.”
Collins and Freeland said Freeland’s nudge at the wire was the difference maker.
Freeland: “It was really close; I needed to do that. I was uncertain [who won]. I was just like, ‘I hope we made it.’ I was very nervous, mostly about letting my team down.”
Collins: “Zanae shooting herself [in front at the wire] at the end helped so much. You wouldn’t understand how silly it looks but how much it helps.”
The finish was so close that some of the runners at first weren’t sure who won.
Collins: “I just stayed positive and kept telling [Zanae] she made it.”
Sweredoski: “We saw [Zanae] cross and we knew it was really tight, but I knew she had it. I knew she had it by a little bit.”
Hooper: “We were in front [of the finish line] and [the girl from] Milford Mill had come up beside her, so it was hard to tell, so I was accepting the fact we were getting second. On the scoreboard, it shows you the times and all that and after Zanae passed through, I thought we had second. But the scoreboard said we were first and Milford Mill was second and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to get our hopes up high.”
There was a logjam at the finish, but when all was sorted out, Huntingtown was awarded first place with a time of 1 minute 46.23 seconds, barely ahead of Milford Mill’s 1:46.24. South Hagerstown (1:47.47), Howard (1:46.63) and Westlake (1:47.57) all combined to put six teams within 1.34 seconds of each other.
Sweredoski: “When we saw Huntingtown go across [in the No. 1 position], we were all just freaking out and screaming.”
Hooper: “I looked up again and saw we were still up there [in first] and it changed some other [teams’] times and positions, but we were still up there and I just got so happy. We were jumping up and down and we were so happy. A guy came over and talked to me and Zanae about it and then Rebecca’s dad took a picture of us, so we were happy about it. We were expecting to do well, [but winning states] was definitely unexpected.”
Collins: “I don’t think [it was unexpected] because we worked pretty hard for it.”
Freeland: “When I saw we had first I was so excited, I was jumping up and down.”
But repeating during the outdoor season won’t be easy as Sweredoski has decided not to run track in order to train for her collegiate soccer career at High Point University in North Carolina.
Sweredoski: ‘Yeah, honestly I am [tempted to do it again]. I’ve been torn the last couple weeks, but I’m going to college for soccer so I need to focus on that. But then I hear everyone talking about track and hearing people say, ‘You won states, you have to do it.’ They understand, they hint at it, but they understand.”
Freeland: “We understand.”
Hooper: “It’s going to be tough. I won’t say I don’t have hope for us [repeating], but I’m nervous about the season.”
Now the search is on for a replacement
Freeland: “[The team] just needs somebody who’s fast and has good teamwork and needs to get used to the baton [passing] because we have a lot of freshmen who just aren’t used to it. [And chemistry] is very important because our relay team had a lot of chemistry together.”
Hooper: “I’m hoping there’s a freshman who’s hiding away somewhere who can run.”