Athletes and teams who are strictly outcome driven are setting themselves up for failure, longtime Quince Orchard High School track and field coach Seann Pelkey said. In a situation where one either wins or loses, there is no focus on making actual progress.
“We try to be more process driven with our goals,” Pelkey said. “We want to see our athletes progress individually and move forward. From Day 1, that’s our emphasis and then the hope is that by the time they’re upperclassmen, on that (state championship) stage, they start seeing their goals come true.”
Despite continually lowering their school records in the 400-meter and 800m relays all season, seniors Alexis Martin and Zakaiyah Bright, junior Kyra Lyles and sophomore Danejah Kyle had won only a single race heading into the season-ending Class 4A state championship held May 23-25 at Morgan State University. But the foursome emerged victorious when the stakes were the highest, winning state titles in both events.
“It’s tough to set a school record and not win; I’m thankful they never thought about (what place they got) so much,” Pelkey said. “They never dwelled on it. They just went out every time and did the best they could, and if they felt like they were giving it their all, that’s all that mattered. … I love the way the girls were so mentally and physically ready (for states). All the stars aligned.”
The Cougars’ winning time of 48.55 seconds in the 400m relay was the state’s ninth best this spring, according to athletic.net—and ranks third in Montgomery County, per mocorunning.com. Their 1 minute, 41.41 second performance in the 800m relay ranks fifth in the state and second in the county. Lyles picked up Quince Orchard’s third title of the day, posting a personal best 56.48 en route to winning the 400m dash when the event’s favorite, Urbana sophomore Ella Auderset, fell to the track within 50 feet of the finish line.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to come and that’s where we come back to the idea of giving all you have to give at any moment,” Pelkey said. “When the opportunity appeared (the girls) were ready and they pounced on it.”
Quince Orchard’s girls scored in a total of six events to finish ninth in the team standings, a vast improvement from last year’s 23rd-place result. Only seven points separated the Cougars from fourth place at this year’s state competition. Sophomore Ariane Bikim and junior Sara Mercer each finished eighth to score in high jump and pole vault, respectively. Bright, Martin, Lyles and freshman Olivia Martin placed seventh in the 1,600m relay.
On the boys’ side, senior Alfred Mevo picked up fifth place in the long jump with a personal record leap of 21-03.00, which ranked in the county’s top 10 this season, according to mocorunning.com. Junior Steven Williams posted the county’s third best throw (48-08.50) to clinch sixth in the state’s shot put competition.
“We talk about how we’re not training for the state championship because it’s only one (competition), but when you win (your event), all the effort seems worth it,” Pelkey said. “It was such a great meet, all the way around. We went in not having a single county championship, other than (Mercer in pole vault), so to leave with three state titles was great.”