Finding yourself behind in a race is a truly daunting task.
Looking at the group in front of you while you try and catch up can be a physically and mentally taxing moment. But for Tahlequah track and field’s Trae Baker and McKenna Hood, it was no big deal.
During the State Finals Meet, Baker and Hood both made key times as the anchor for the Tigers’ State qualifying relay teams.
“Her effort will always be there,” said the girl’s head coach Elzy Miller. “She wants to be there. In fact, we talked about changing the order of our two-mile relay so we could be out in front. Last minute they wanted to change back to the anchor, she knew she would have to get us back into and she did it.”
Hood brought her 4x400 relay up from 10th to a sixth place finish with a time of 4:11.98. In the 4x800 Hood was key in an eighth-place finish with a time of 10:31.60.
In the 4x800, Hood’s partners were Riley Dotson, Annika Barr, and Tori Pham. While in the 4x400 she teamed with Dotson, Emily Morrison, and Kirsten Kelly.
Baker on the other hand brought his team back to the podium with a fourth-place finish in the 4x800 with a time of 8:81.24. Baker teamed with Daniel Carey, Drake Park, and Austin Marsh in the 4x400.
Baker and the rest of the relay had an over hour-long delay due to a tornado in the area before running the 4x400.
Baker and Hood were also the only two Tigers who competed in both a relay and individual races.
By himself, Baker finished second in the 800-meter with a time of 1:54.60. Baker then followed that up with a third-place finish in the mile at 4:30.64.
“I saw what I have seen all year long,” said THS boys’ distance coach David Spears. “Just the toughness. He was just a half second off the school record. He ran a great race, he competed and ran hard. He busted his tail to get that third place, I mean he worked hard. In the 4x800 he gets the stick we were in eighth and he moves us up fast.”
Hood picked up a school record and third place with a time of 2:21.9 in the 800 meter. In the mile, Hood earned fourth with a time of 5:25.63.
After her mile was over Hood had to hop into the previously mentioned 4x400 relay.
“Very few came right off the mile and went to the mile relay and she just does it,” said Miller. “She is tougher than nails, her work ethic is really good. She has been a leader all year setting the tempo for our team.”
Outside of the duo that competed in four events, the Tigers had plenty of other athletes involved at State.
Senior Alexa McClure battled a shoulder injury throughout the offseason and season to earn third place with a season-best 38’3 in the shot put.
“She is a prime example of someone that puts in the time in the offseason,” said Miller. “She has been working in the weight room all year despite some shoulder injuries; she was determined to be there. For her to come up and throw as well as she did is tremendous.”
Kori Rainwater also moved up from her projected seed to earn a sixth place with a 118’4 discus throw. Sadie Stanglin earned 16th in the discus with a throw of 97’6.
Kynley Frazier placed 16th with a time of 54:46 in the hurdles. Morrison also earned a fifth-place finish in the high jump with a jump of five feet.
On the boys’ side Cayden Nix placed 15 in the 110 hurdles with a time of 16:38. Novena Webb earned 11 in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 43:09. Beckett Robinson added a ninth place with a long jump of 21’7.25”
Jacob Tiger added a 10 place finish with a 10:22.62 showing in the mile.
The team of Marsh, Drake Park, Daniel Carey, and Robinson earned 15 in the 4x100 with a 44:74 time. Jalen Hooper rounds out the list with a 12 place finish in the mile with a 4:40.39.
“They have 360 odd days to get back there again,” said Spears. “The work begins now, in the summer and throughout the spring. Summer has seasons when it comes to meets but you have to stay in shape year and hit your peak at the right time.”
For some of the track and field athletes, they will not have the chance to rest as they look to begin gearing up for cross-country season in the fall.
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