Daily Egyptian

Relay team uses expired event for future success

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The 4×800 meter relay may not count when SIU gets to conference, but the runners have used the it to prepare for a different event and broke a longstanding record in the process.

On Jan. 31, a mix-match of women’s distance runners set the school record for the relay.

Seniors Kelley Gallagher, Mobola Rotibi and Allison Gallo, along with freshman Alexandra Martel, broke the record by less than half a second with a time of 9:09.22. The previous record, set in 1998, was 9:09.60.

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The 4×800 is no longer an official event in the NCAA, but was once a competitive event in the Missouri Valley Conference and the NCAA.

Track and field coach Connie Price-Smith said although the event is not important for NCAA records, it is always exciting to see history made.

“It’s always nice to break a record,” she said. “It was something we ran before and it hadn’t been broken for a while.”

Distance coach David Beauchem said not running the event frequently makes it hard to find a group that will work well together.

“To break it now, when it’s not a primary relay, is a great accomplishment,” he said. “The team that set the record [previously] set it when it was a conference championship and NCAA event.”

Beauchem said he knew they could run together after their performances on the cross-country team last fall.

Gallo said it was exciting to set the record because the team had only run the event one other time in last year’s outdoor season.

“We don’t practice anything with batons or relay,” she said. “For an 800-meter event we just focus more on speed, and since it was early in the season, we never trained for it.”

Gallagher, who typically runs the mile and 5k events, said she had not run this distance since high school but relied on her teammates through the event. She said the pace was faster than what she was used to and she tried to stay with the pack as the lead runner.

Beauchem said he focused on secondary events during the second day of the Indiana Relays, held at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., including the 4×800.

“We thought we had a chance at the record just based on their personal bests,” he said. “With the history here, there are no school records that aren’t significant.”

Beauchem said the team had run together in the distance medley, and will all be considered for the distance medley relay at the conference championships.

Rotibi said the success on the relay will translate to success in future events.

“It’s comforting that our distance medley will be good,” she said. “We work together well so we’ll know strengths and weakness going into that event.”

Martel said she had experience with distance relays from high school. During her senior year at Lane Tech High School, her 4×800 meter relay team qualified for nationals.

“My coach loved mid-distance events,” she said. “The 4×800 team was a big part of our team dynamic and I loved running it.”

The team will likely not compete in the 4×800 event again this season.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 269. 

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