The worst thing about indoor track, according to Cary High’s Layla White, is that you run a lot outside in the cold.
“It doesn’t matter how cold it is,” she said. “We’re going (to go) out and train. I wear gloves, a hat and layers. But it’s still cold.”
North Carolina high school runners have more options for indoor meets than they did in the past, but the bulk of the training still is outdoors.
So with temperatures in the 20s, White often has to run outside with a purpose.
The Imps junior wants to run the 300 meters indoors in less than 38 seconds this winter (the state record is 38.76) and to run the 400 meters outdoors in 53 seconds (the state record is 54.07) during the spring season.
“I want to set records,” she said.
White will get her chance Saturday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A indoor track championships at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem. The 3A championship is Friday, the 1A/2A championship on Saturday morning and the 4A is Saturday afternoon.
The Wakefield girls and the Knightdale boys won the 4A team titles in 2013.
The Triangle is expected to do well in the 4A finals. Area boys have the top qualifying performance in nine of 12 events. Durham Hillside sophomore Marcus Krah tops the long jump (22 feet, 9.5 inches) and the 55-meter run (7.52 seconds).
Cary sophomore Charminique Hackney has run a 6.99 in the 55-meter run, one of the top times in the country this season. She is one of five area girls with the top qualifying times in the state meet.
White is No. 1 in the state in the 300 (39.86 seconds) and is second behind Wakefield’s Tia Robinson in the the 500 (1:15.83 to 1:16.93).
White streaked into national prominence last year. She had been a sprinter early in her career, but Cary coach Jerry Dotson asked her to run the 200 to increase her stamina during her freshman year. The veteran Imps coach suggested she move to the 400 to help with the 200.
The first time she ran the 400, competing on the Imps’ 4x400 relay in the Wake County championships in 2012, she surpassed the N.C. High School Athletic Association state qualifying standard. A year later, she won the NCHSAA indoor title in 500 meters indoors as a sophomore and was third in the 400 at the national indoor championship.
“I’m sure that on the national level it was, ‘Where did this girl come from?’” she said.
The 300 and 400 are grueling races – sprints over relatively long distances – but not to her.
“The races are the fastest seconds of my life,” she said. “They don’t last long.”
Dotson said he has never seen a runner quite like White.
“She is an instinctual runner,” Dotson said. “Her form is pretty good and she is a fierce competitor. She’ll go out extremely hard and just burn out a lot of the other girls. She has the uncanny ability to recover, even during a race.
“She is a runner who doesn’t need to be thinking what she should be doing. She just needs to go.”
As she trains in the cold, she thinks about the records and pushes herself a little bit harder.