McEachern’s 400-meter relay team is really fast.
History was made after the starter’s gun went off for the first heat of the 400 relay in last week’s sectional at McEachern, with Shania Evans, MaKenzie Dunmore, Kristin Hall and Cierra Dunston competing for the Lady Indians. When the race ended 45.33 seconds later, the quartet had not only broke the school record for the third time this season, they had also set the mark for the fastest time in the nation this year, and set the fastest time in state history across all classifications, according to MileSplit.
That kind of speed will be needed for all athletes starting today as the state championships begin in Albany.
Evans, a freshman who also qualified for the state meet in the 100 dash, ran the first leg for McEachern’s 400 relay team. She also participates in the 200, long jump and is a member of the 1,600 relay team.
“Coming out of the blocks, I just wanted to do well for my team,” Evans said. “I wanted to run to MaKenzie and get a good handoff and hope that we run well.”
The Lady Indians continued to run well all the way around the track. Crisp baton passes to Dunmore, Hall and finally Dunston led to a 2-second lead over the next-fastest finisher in their heat.
“Our goal was to get a good time and stay focused,” Dunmore said. “When I got the stick, I was hyped and just ran hard.”
When McEachern’s time was posted on the scoreboard, the girls instantly reacted.
“I was shocked and just happy that we broke the school record again,” Hall said. “We beat our last (personal record) by 1 second, so we were just joyful. We were hugging and everything.”
“It almost brought tears to my eyes. They were so excited about that 4x100,” sprint coach Cedric Sapp said. “I was happy for them, but I knew that their ultimate goal was to run like that state.”
Knowing they beat their personal best by a second, the team looked online to see where their time ranked nationally, and they also received a text message from Sapp informing them of the mark.
“When I got the stick and was halfway done with my 100, I saw where we were compared to the other teams and I knew we were moving,” Hall said. “I figured we’d probably PR, but I didn’t think we’d run the fastest time in the nation. We went online figuring it was the fastest time in the state this year, but to get fastest in the nation was a big surprise.”
The 400 relay mark isn’t the only stellar time put up by the quartet. The same group ran and won the 1,600 relay in 3:46.42, which was the fastest time in the state this year and the ninth-fastest nationally.
Hall, a junior who will be running at state for the first time in her career, also qualified in the 300 hurdles.
After playing basketball and softball for most of her youth, Hall decided to give track and field a try in high school. She learned how to run the hurdles last year, and after a slow start to the season, she ended Saturday’s race with a personal-best time of 43.12, which is also the second-fastest time in the state this season. It’s also the sixth fastest time in Georgia all-time.
“I figured I had at least PR’ed,” Hall said. “That was the cleanest hurdle race I’ve run all season. I didn’t expect my time to be the second-best in the state, though. I almost cried.”
Dunmore had a strong freshman season last year, and her follow-up campaign has only gotten better. Dunmore qualified for the state meet in both relays as well as the 200 and 400 dashes.
She ran a personal-best time of 23.82 in the 200 at sectionals, which is also the second-fastest time in the state and seventh-fastest in the nation. Her best 400 time of 54.49, which she ran at the county championships, was also the second-fastest time in the state and ninth-best nationally.
Dunmore and Dunston run in the same events for McEachern, and the two created a bond last year that has grown this season.
“(Cierra) is my role model and like my sister,” Dunmore said. “We got close when I came here last year, and we treat each other like family. She tells me right from wrong, and there’s a mutual respect between us.”
After an injury kept Dunston from achieving her goals last year, she heads into the state championships healthy and ready to compete. Her personal-best time of 54.39 in the 400, which she ran at the sectional meet, is the fastest time in the state this year and is seventh-fastest nationally.
“(Dunston and Dunmore) push each other to get better when they train together,” McEachern head coach Philip Hoskins said. “They like to leave it all on the track when they race.”
It’s not just Dunston and Dunmore who are training hard. The entire relay team has dedicated themselves to getting better.
“The girls work hard at being explosive,” strength and conditioning coach Brian Smith said. “They’ve bought into the weight-training. They know that, the stronger you are, the faster you’re going to run.”
It’s the group’s attitude that has them putting up tremendous times this season.
“They’re committed to the team and doing things for each other,” Sapp said. “Last year, they were individuals. That’s not the case this time.”