Girls’ track breaks school record by two seconds

4 by 2 team surpasses goals at Conference meet


Noah Deetz

Junior Anna Jenson practices grabbing the baton from her partner sophomore Sidney Hayenga during a track practice.

Yonit Krebs and Breanna Thompson

Despite intense heat hitting athletes at the Metro West Conference meet, junior Nyah Johnson, eighth grader Freya Wade, sophomore Sidney Hayenga and junior Anna Jennissen, the members of Park’s girls’ 4 by 2 team, ran a record-breaking race that defeated the school record by 2 seconds. According to Johnson, the team knew they were close and had been working toward that goal all season.

“Right before the meet, we were really nervous, so we always tell ourselves we’re going to get the record today, we’re so close, we can do it,” Johnson said.

Park placed second at the Metro West Conference meet May 16, 17 points behind Bloomington Jefferson, according to Johnson.

“We’re still really happy. We were third last year, so it’s still a step up,” Johnson said.

Sprints coach Lekpea Kordah said breaking the school record had been a goal for the girls since the end of the 2017 season.

“I was really excited for them because we tried to get it last year, and I remembered towards the end of the banquet we talked about me coming back to make sure that we could get the record before I’m done coaching,” Kordah said. “It was a good feeling.”

Johnson, the team’s starter, said after running her portion she soon realized the race would be a success.

“I started it, so right after I finished I was looking around, and I was watching it, and I looked at my coaches, and they were also surprised, and they were screaming. Then they looked at me with their arms wide, and (my coach) ran at me saying that we beat the record,” Johnson said. “I ran after my teammates and we started all hugging and we were crying. It was all just amazing.”

According to Johnson, the team worked on their handoffs and endurance throughout the entire season.

“We have been doing a lot of work in handoffs and a lot of endurance work to make sure that we can keep our speed throughout the whole race,” Johnson said.

Junior captain Anna Jennissen said their success as a team is due to their work ethic and determination to achieve their goals.

“We’re really good at showing up at practice and constantly working those handoffs, and we have the mentality of wanting to get there and do better,” Jennissen said. “We know what we need to work on which I think is really helpful.”

According to Kordah, trust is essential to the success of a relay team and the girls experienced the most growth once Freya Wade, the lone middle schooler on the team, found her place.

“The one big thing about relays is you have to have good team chemistry. To have a good chemistry makes this race so much easier,” Kordah said. “This year, having Freya Wade come in as an eighth grader just coming in and showing that she can run with us was just a big key, and once they got to trust her a little and when she found her confidence it was easy for her and for them to be close.”

Johnson said two factors in their outstanding performance at the Conference meet was the weather and their motivation.

“Our overall mood was different. We were really excited for Conference, we knew that it was all good competition, and they were all good people to run against,” Johnson said. “The heat also made us really relaxed, our muscles nice and loose, even though it was really hot, and it made everything feel really smooth.”

Jennissen said as the anchor for the four-person team, she must make sure to recognize how tired the runners before her are and pace the handoffs accordingly.

“I think (part of being the anchor is) just knowing that everyone has done their part in the race so you just have to do yours and finish it off strong and just knowing people are tired,” Jennissen said. “Finishing the race, you just have to put everything you have into it and just push yourself because a lot of times is such a close race, and half the time you’re neck-and-neck with someone else.”

Jennissen said she has had a successful season herself, beating her personal record of 60.2 seconds by a full second, along with the Orono school record, in the 400-meter race May 3.

“It was at the Orono meet and there was just really good competition there, so that’s what helped me set a good pace for myself. It was just a good meet for everyone, so we just call it like a fast track now,” Jennissen said.

Johnson said Jennissen is a great team member who lifts her teammates up and supports them no matter what.

“She’s always positive. She has never had a bad day, she never says anything upsetting or anything mean,” Johnson said. “She’s always trying to make everyone feel confident and less nervous for their race. Even if she’s nervous, she lets them know that they’re going to do fine.”

According to Johnson, moving into Sections the team hopes to continue to improve their time and beat their own record.

“Our goals as we move on to our sections is to beat our record again, and we want to still get better so hopefully, we can do it again,” Johnson said.

The Sections meet is 3:45 May 29 and 5:30 May 30 at Orono High School.