The Discovery Canyon girls' 3,200-meter relay team was dominant Saturday, taking a 43.01-second win at the Ray Campbell Invitational. Their time of 9 minutes, 56.62 seconds was not only a season best for the team, it was also among the top eight times posted by a 4A school this year.
Imagine what they might have done if they had their top runner available.
The Thunder's convincing victory came without Heather Bates, who owns Discovery Canyon's best times in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 so far this season. Her 800 mark of 2:21.60 was the sixth-best time in the state coming into Saturday, and she was also first in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600.
Bates instead was in Lawrence, Kan., having accepted an invitation to compete in the mile at the prestigious Kansas Relays. There, she took fourth in an elite, 38-runner field with a time of 4:56.57.
Her teammates, meanwhile, acquitted themselves nicely at Guy R. Barickman Stadium.
“I think it was one of the better races we've done all season,” said Allie Morgan, who took over for Bates on the anchor leg. “That was really exciting.”
Freshman Arianna Ross, who was described by Discovery Canyon distance coach Mark Vander Meer at “a little fireball,” gave the Thunder an immediate lead with a first-leg time of 2:29.
“Our real breakthrough was Alyssa Carmen today – she ran 2:25,” said Vander Meer, who was subbing for head coach Chris Miner. “She's just getting better by the day. That's what gave us a great cushion.”
That left Molly Spalding and Morgan far ahead of the pack for the third and fourth legs. The absence of a close challenger can be difficult for a runner.
“It's always nice to chase someone or have someone around you,” Vander Meer said. “When there's someone around you there's always that extra piece of energy.”
Vander Meer said that with the addition of Bates, a little more polish and some top competition, Discovery Canyon could be among 4A's top 3,200 teams at season's end.
“I think we could improve by 15 seconds or so, which would be nice,” he said. “There are a couple of teams in the low 9:40s, so we'd be right there in the mix.”
Ross and Morgan went on to take first and second respectively in the individual 800. Add the relay win and they accounted for 28 of the 62.75 points earned by the Discovery Canyon girls.
“It really exceeded my expectations,” said Vander Meer. “We'll put Heather in the mix and hopefully bring home some good hardware at state.”
The next time they race will be the first time Discovery Canyon will have its top runners all available at the same time.
“We haven't really had everybody in the race yet,” Morgan said. “So when we have everybody together next week, we'll just fly and get a good time.”