At Lynden relays aren’t just another event.
Little digging is required to realize this fact. Simply looking at the Lions’ representation at last year’s Class 2A State Championships reveals how much Lynden covets the team races.
“Well, that is one of the things that I have really tried to stress as a coach as the foundation,” Lions track and field coach Layne Hutchins said in a phone interview. “If kids are excited about being on the relays, there’s a commitment to get on those relays and the kids work hard for it. You see the success, and you want to be a part of it.”
Both on the boys’ and girls’ side, relays are treated with the utmost importance. The Lynden boys, Hutchins said, have placed in the top five at state in the 4x400 relay the past seven years straight, and this past fall the Lynden coach said he had athletes already asking him who would be on the 4x4 team.
While the boys will certainly be looking to improve on its impressive third-place finish last season, the girls’ relays could one of the best around.
The Lions qualified for state in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400, placing seventh in the 4x2 and sixth in the 4x4. No, the Lions weren’t top five, but Lynden brings back all but one leg from the team’s state relays and have added even more speed this spring.
Sophomore Jasmyne Neria, a standout in the 400 who took home a fifth-place medal in the event last season, is back and is one of the fastest athletes in the Northwest Conference. Also back from last year is junior Hailey DiLorenzo and sophomore Lauren Zwiers. Neria, DiLorenzo and Zwires ran in every relay.
“We just all have good chemistry, and each of us trusts each other that that person will be there for them if you drop the baton or if the handoff wasn’t good,” Neria said in a phone interview. “We have to rely on that person, and we have each others’ back.”
Kat Webb and Sofia Milstead, who ran a leg on either the 4x1, 4x2 or 4x4, didn’t come out for track and field this season, but the Lions got a strong runner back in junior Cassidee Barclay, who was out last year, and Hutchins said freshman Lily Bogart and sophomore Mya Sires would be strong relay options.
“I’m really excited,” Hutchins said. “We have some girls who are pushing to get on those relays, and it’s not a done deal by any means. When it comes down to it, I see us having very strong relays, and that is a fun thing.”
One of the determinants Hutchins uses to decide which Lynden athletes will be on his relays is an exercise he calls “flying 30s.”
Hutchins has one of his sprinters start 20 meters behind the first of two cones. In between the set of cones is a distance spanning 30 meters. Once the sprinter crosses the first cone, he starts his timer and then stops it once the athlete crosses the second. The point is measuring athlete’s top-end speed.
Hutchins said it can be quite the spectacle.
Relay personnel and a set running order will be determined as the season rolls along, but there’s certainly a feel that the Lions, once again, could be filling up the relay lanes come state.
“I’ve thought about it, and I think we have great potential of making it even higher at state this year,” Neria said. “We have a lot of fast people coming back, and I think we can make something happen this year.”