Relay team reflects on successful season

Varshini Ramanathan, Sports Editor

Westford Academy’s Girls’ 4×100 meter track relay had a truly remarkable run this season. The team, comprising of junior Katherine Pawlak and sophomores Jacki Harding, Grace Santana, and Mel Almasian, broke the school record and placed first overall in the Division 1 East Championships with a time of 49.21 seconds, placed fourth at the All-State meet with a time of 49.45 seconds, and continued all the way to the New England Championships.

According to the team, they were not expecting to make it this far. Looking back on the season, they attribute their success to their friendship: especially in a relay, communication and trust are key. The handoffs proved to be the most difficult aspect of the race to master, but they managed it through hard work.

“I think for the most part we all worked really well together this year. However, it’s always tricky communicating the handoffs if there is a difficulty. Especially during the race, everyone is so in the moment that it can be hard,” Pawlak said.

Girls’ Track and Field Head Coach Scott Hafferkamp seconds this statement, pointing to their attitude towards one another as the reason why their were able to succeed as a team.

“The relay team has been running together for long enough to know each other extremely well. Handoffs are the key in the 4×100, and their comfort with one another has allowed them to improve their technique. It doesn’t mean they always go perfectly, when they do, they set a school record,” he said.

That doesn’t mean that the girls never struggle, though; they work to manage stress before and during a race in order to maximize their performance. These techniques range from praying to an imaginary god called “Relaysious” for clean handoffs, or simply working to stay calm and not overthink.

On a more serious note, Harding was injured in the middle of the season and was questionable to not be able to race in the tournament. She thanks their alternate Ashley Kelley for providing their team a fall back, in the event that she did not make it into the lineup,

“I happened to be injured and it was a possibility that I was not gonna be able to race, and she stepped up and came to all the meets just in case. We all really appreciated her help and I believe the season would’ve been the same if she ran in my place,” said Harding.

The girls’ season was also almost cut off by a disqualification after the DCL meet, where they believed they had beaten the school record. However, the officials claimed that they had handed off the baton outside the legal zone and invalidated their time. However, they were able to win back the qualification with the help of their coaches, and took home an award for second in the league before continuing on to the Division 1 Meet.

“After we found out we got disqualified we were all pretty crushed since we disagreed with the officials, but fortunately our coaches fought it and got us undisqualified and they came onto the bus with our medals, so we knew we got the record at that moment,” Harding said.

Now that they have met such a high standard, the team aims to keep pushing for greater heights.

“I think that we want to make it to nationals next season […] and I think that we all want to go back to New England’s and place with a medal,” Almasian said.

In the end, it is being with their teammates and friends, be it during meets, at practice, or even on the bus, that made the season so enjoyable for them.

“[At the divisional meet] there was another team that was pretty close to us at the finish so it was really great to have everyone there cheering us on. We were one of the last races of the day but everyone was still there. One of our teammates [Olivia Lohmeier] made us a really nice poster that said “run relay fast” as well. I guess what I’m saying is that it was really cool to go to all states but it was even cooler to perform well surrounded by all of our teammates,” Pawlak said.

“Pretty much any time we’re together it’s a fun time,” Santana said.