The girls’ sprint relay teams at Parkland are well established as the crème de la crème of high school track in North Carolina. The Mustangs relay sweep (4×100, 4×200 and 4×400) at last month’s Class 4-A state outdoor championships provided added confirmation of their dominance.
Parkland will return to the scene of its most recent triumphs for the New Balance Outdoor National Track and Field Championships June 14-16 at the Irwin Belk Track at N.C. A&T.
With seven sprinters on board – Ebony Williams, Erin Morrison, Myshale Spigner, Miaysha Bryant, Ila Mumford, Katlin Sherman and McKinley McNeil – the Mustangs have a roster that’s young, deep and interchangeable. Spigner will be the only senior sprinter on the team next year. Six of the seven runners are versatile enough to compete in every sprint relay event.
At the state championships, Parkland put on a stellar display and in the process, set state meet records in the 4×200 (1 minute, 37.83 seconds) and 4×400 (3 minutes, 47.7 seconds) and tied the state meet record in the 4×100 (47.22 seconds).
“It’s a great feeling to have the opportunity to run at nationals,” said Sherman, a rising junior who placed third in the open 200 at the state championships. “I have a lot of confidence is my teammates. Everybody has worked hard and we’re ready to focus and compete.”
Whether Coach Antwan Hughes’ runners can win a national sprint relay title remains to be seen. A year ago, the Mustangs 4×200 team finished fourth. The 4×200 foursome of Spigner, Sherman, Williams and Morrison figures to contend for a top five finish at this year’s NB nationals. So far, Parkland’s record-setting time at the state meet is seventh-fastest in the nation. In the 4×100 (Mumford, Morrison, Sherman and Bryant), the Mustangs are ranked 20th nationally.
Competition in practice is one of the key factors behind the Mustangs success. The versatility of the runners ensures that each will be pushed to the limit when they run against each other at different distances during training sessions.
“Practices are the biggest challenge,” said Morrison, the only Parkland runner who competed in all three sprint relays at the state championships. “When you’re with a good group that works hard like we do, the competition is so intense that it causes everybody’s time to drop. We’re constantly pushing each other, and that’s what makes us better.”
On the surface, it seems that assembling a championship-caliber relay team is simply a matter of having the four fastest runners. According to Sherman and Morrison, however, that’s no guarantee for victory. Team chemistry and a keen sense of unity, they explain, play a crucial role in how well a relay team performs, especially in the pressurized atmosphere of the big meets.
“It takes focus and dedication,” said Sherman. “When we have problems with baton exchanges in practice, we go over it again and again and again until we get it right. We’ve gotten to know each other so well that if any adjustments need to be made once the race has started, we know what to do.”