LAKEWOOD - The 800 sprint medley relay is, well, different.
Let’s allow The Classical Academy senior sprinter Kelsey Eichelberger to describe the event. She’s an expert on the subject. She will anchor the Titans team and carry their hopes to the finish line in Friday’s final, scheduled for 12:15 p.m. at Jeffco Stadium.
“We all contribute equally,” Eichelberger says of the Titans’ four relay runners, “but because it’s a sprint medley and everyone is running different races everyone is contributing in different ways and it’s weird.”
Weird, she says, in a really good way.
Most track fans are familiar with the 4 x 100 or the 4 x 400 and so on. The girls 800-meter sprint medley is a happy hodgepodge. It begins with two 100 sprints, followed by a 200 sprint and ends with a 400 sprint.
Make sense to you?
But it’s a fun, unpredictable and surprisingly controversial event. Only Iowa and Colorado offer the event at their state meets. In Colorado, the sprint medley was introduced a quarter-century ago to balance the number of boys and girls events. After Colorado added the girls pole vault, girls had more one more event than the boys, leaving the girls sprint medley endangered.
TCA coach Tim Daggett has a strong chance to rule the state in the sprint medley Friday, but he’s not a big fan of the event. He says the layout of the race means the team with the outside lane has to run as many as four meters more than other teams.
And he says critics see the event as too heavily weighted toward the team with the best 400-meter anchor. A talented 400-meter runner, he says, can almost always wipe out even a big lead by another team.
“I don’t like it,” he says of the medley.
Darwin Horan, coach of defending 3A champ Parker Lutheran, disagrees.
“It’s a little bit of a mix of all the relays and I think it shows the strength of your team,” he says. “It’s great for everybody. I wish they would add a boys sprint medley. I wish they would do more relays, because the high school kids love relays. So why not have more relays?”
Horan has heard from track purists who despise the event. The sprint medley is almost never part of the college track scene and it’s not an Olympic event, the purists say, so why bother with the medley in high school?
“Well,” Horan says, “this isn’t college and this isn’t the Olympics. Make it fun for the kids. The more relays, the better.”
On Friday, Brooke Hoglin will run the 200 before handing the baton to Eichelberger, her teammate and good friend.
Before the season, it looked as if this handoff might never happen. Track coaches were bickering about the sprint medley. Most big high schools wanted the event banished. Most small schools wanted to keep the medley breathing.
The small schools won, which means TCA has a chance to rule Colorado in this wonderfully weird race.
“We all have this bond,” Hoglin says of her medley teammates, “not because we’re running the same thing but because we’re all running a different piece of the same race.”
“And it’s different.”
Yes, it is.