There is no state title contender anchoring the final leg of this year’s version of the girls 400-meter relay team for Heights.
Find three fast girls to pair with an elite sprinter was the equation the Falcons used to win two state championships, in 2012 and 2010. But this year, the equation has changed.
Rianne Richard, Chaylynn Conley, Kolby Ganther and Gabriella Ocadiz are all blazers in the 100, but no Heights sprinter is among the top five times posted this season in Class 5A.
That’s Ok, because the foursome have combined their talents to form a 400 relay with a legitimate shot at the 5A title. Their season-best time of 49.54 seconds is ranked second entering regionals; Heights is one of three teams, along with St. James Academy and Kapaun Mount Carmel, to break 50 seconds this season.
“We have four solid young ladies that all believe in each other and that makes it so much easier,” Heights girls coach Bryan Chadwick said. “They get the stick around the track and that’s the consistency we strive for.”
What makes this team rare, according to Chadwick, is that all communication on the track between the members is non-verbal.
“We have a rhythm system and they all believe in the rhythm and making sure you do the rhythm in the right way,” Chadwick said. “Most people say ‘stick’ to get the baton passed, but they don’t ever say anything. They believe in the rhythm and it’s been pretty fun watching them.”
Heights will compete in the 5A regional at Salina Central on Friday.
Schaller started out her 2014 season along the same path as the rest of her career, running in the middle 2:30s in April. Then her breakthrough came. Schaller ran the best race of her life on May 2 in El Dorado, taking runner-up in the 800 with a time of 2:25.60.
Last week, Schaller became the City League champion in the event.
“This is all so different,” Schaller said. “I’m not really used to it. Last year wasn’t like this. But this is really exciting. Last year missing state by so close, I wanted to break 2:30 and that was my goal. Now that I did it, I want to work to keep it down there.”
Now Schaller owns the top qualifying time in Friday’s regional hosted by Bishop Carroll at Friends, and is a threat to collect a medal at the 5A meet.
“It feels so good,” Schaller said. “I never thought I would be in this position, but it’s really, really exciting.”
But the elusive 15-second barrier has escaped Parker so far this season; her season-best time of 15.14 seconds stands as the second-best time in 6A this season. Still, Parker is driven by her goal and not necessarily by a title in the event.
“I don’t really focus on winning,” Parker said. “Winning to me isn’t as good as if I got last and got a 14-something. I would be happy with that. I mean I’m happy that I’m winning, but I’m more focused on getting good times.”