While most of the students at Hickman are focused on getting through their last day of finals today, eight members of the track team are on their way to Jefferson City to compete in the state track meet.
Junior Asia Walker has the most events on her plate this weekend. She will be competing in the long jump, triple jump, and as a member of the girls’ 4x400 meter relay team. She heads to state for the third year in a row with one goal in mind: staying focused.
“I think the competition last year kind of got to me,” she said. “I was a little more focused on who was ahead of me on jumps. I just kind of psyched myself out mentally.”
Walker started out her track career as a sprinter but has since added long jump and just this year, triple jump to her list of events. Last year, she finished 11th in the 400-meter dash and 10th in the long jump.
“My thing is focusing,” she said. “(My teammates) got really proud of me this year because I said this year I was gonna try hard. Don’t get me wrong, I tried last year, I just didn’t have that mental push, I didn’t have that confidence in myself. Now I’m just like, ‘I can do this.’”
Today and Saturday before her jumps, Walker will most likely be staying in the zone by keeping her headphones on and a beat in her head. Although she’s had a little trouble in the past because of nerves, this year she feels both mentally and physically prepared, mostly due to pushes from her jump coach, Stewart Johnson.
“We have this thing we’ve been sayin’ since districts, ‘Seize the Day’,” Walker said. “He’s been getting that in me. And he’s always sayin’ ‘What’s that word we’ve been talking about? It starts with an “O”: opportunity.’”
Johnson said he tries to push the same attitude with all his track athletes.
“Everyone starts at zero on Saturday,” he said. “Everyone has the same opportunity.”
Walker will join Ciara Tatum, Emily Young and Jabarbara Jennings, all juniors, in the 4x400 meter relay. Tatum will also be running the 400-meter dash. Senior Zach Chapman, junior Josh Mantooth, and sophomores Sam Masters and David Garman will run the 4x800 meter relay, and Masters will also compete in the 1600-meter run.
Both the relay teams strive for togetherness. Individuals rely on each other to achieve their overall goals and success, Masters said. Both teams have set realisic goals for themselves. The boys team wants to run its relay in under 8 minutes, while the girls’ goal is to bring their 4 minute time down by two seconds.
“When we think of it, it’s like taking off a half a second for each of us,” Young said. “We don’t just put it on one person. We spread it out between everybody. We all know we can do better than what we have done.”
The team will be driving back to Columbia tonight after its events are finished and heading back to Jefferson City Saturday to finish up. Masters said it’s nice to have more of a home advantage going into state in order to mentally prepare himself for his coming events. And when the nervousness begins to set in, he sees it as a positive.
“Nerves actually will help me,” he said. “The more pressure the better. It makes me seem like I have more to prove and more to do. More people are counting on me to do better, so it makes me do better.”
The Class 3 and 4 high school track championships will be held in Jefferson City today and Saturday at Reed Stadium on the Lincoln University Campus. The events begin at 11 a.m. and the stadium opens at 10 a.m.