Being a part of history is a rare feat for a high school athlete.
A girls 400 relay etched their names in the Crooksville record books last week.
Coach Brian Spring researched the previous time a Ceramic relay qualified after the team finished fourth in the regional to advance to this weekend’s Division III state meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Spring didn’t find an answer.
“I looked through the school’s records, and this is the first relay to make state from what I found,” he said. “Our whole schedule is to prepare us for regionals. We may take a beating at the beginning of the season, but we gear our training to peak at this time.”
Senior Hillary Taylor and juniors Taylor Pennington and Ashly Clark were part of this relay in 2012 that finished eighth at the regional. Freshman McKayla Chevalier stepped in for Jordan Marolt, who graduated.
The relay ran a school-record time of 52.29 in the final to reach state by .07 seconds. Taylor said being overlooked by the competition benefited them.
“At the districts, we kept up with a team that made the state last season,” she said. “Not many people paid attention to us since we were eighth going into the (regional) finals. But, we each picked it up and surprised a lot of people.
“It’s big for us to see all our hard work pay off.”
Clark said the relay also ran without any pressure before making school history.
“We were able to run freer because no one gave us a chance,” she said. “We didn’t believe it at first, but it was really exciting. We really pushed ourselves to get here.”
The experience of Taylor, Pennington and Clark was a benefit in Spring’s mind, as was the willingness to work with Chevalier.
“(Those three) have had the exposure of some big meets,” he said. “They were four different individuals who had to gel. They have become a team.”
The biggest adjustment was for Chevalier. Along with the jump from middle school competition, she had to find her role in the relay.
“I didn’t know what to expect at first,” she said. “I went out and did what I was supposed to. I’m really happy to make it here, especially helping Hillary get there (in her final try).”
Pennington said the group never missed a beat with Chevalier. The freshman’s work ethic made it easy for the rest of them to accept her.
“She’s been amazing as a freshman. She’s hard-working and does everything,” Pennington said. “(As a team), we get along. It could be easy to get frustrated, but we try to cheer each other on and pick each other up if we make a mistake.”
There still are areas of improvement for the relay. Spring said a slow handoff and extending the zone could make up a half-second or more.
No matter how the season ends, the girls still will be remembered for their accomplishments.
“I told the girls we can’t do any worse than 16th in the state, but hopefully we can do better,” he said.