High School Sports

Southeast Raleigh indoor track anchored by girls’ relay teams

Southeast Raleigh’s Saidah Hardwick, front, takes a handoff from Asya Macon during a recent practice. Because of the weather conditions, the teams have to practice indoors.
Southeast Raleigh’s Saidah Hardwick, front, takes a handoff from Asya Macon during a recent practice. Because of the weather conditions, the teams have to practice indoors. newsobserver.com

Elizabeth Gary doesn’t want her relay runners to get too comfortable in one event.

Turns out, that’s been key for the Southeast Raleigh track team.

All three Southeast Raleigh girls’ indoor track relays were at one point this season ranked the top in the state. In the latest NCRunners standings, the 4x200 meter team is still in first with a 1:41.6.

Gary believes that if she can have continuity while interchanging the relays’ legs, then the teams will be successful.

“We can even move some girls from middle distance and drop them in the 4x200 if we need to,” she said. “We trained them with the mindset that we really want them to be able to run up or run down. They have to have a flexible mindset. When you go to college, you don’t know what that college coach may have you run.

“The more events you can do and do well, the more marketable you are.”

Gary, who ran long distance at St. Augustine’s University under renowned track coach George Williams, hopes to push as many of her runners as possible into college. But first, the goal is to win big in February.

Right now, we’re just laying the ground work. The meets we go to on the weekends, we’re still using them to see where we are. It allows us to be able to switch some things around on the relays and see what we have.

Southeast Raleigh indoor track coach Elizabeth Gary

Southeast Raleigh track teams – indoor and outdoor – have won 12 state championships, the last coming in 2012. The Bulldogs hope to be in the 4A race on Feb. 13 at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

“We’re due,” Gary joked.

The girls’ relay teams have helped anchor this season’s indoor success, but there is a culture within the program that reaches beyond athletic abilities.

The runners understand if they don’t maintain good grades, they can’t compete.

A pair of transfer sprinters said they are performing better in the classroom. Charminiqu Hackney, who transferred from Cary, and Kleo Torres, who came in from East Wake, have nearly straight As on their latest report cards, Gary said. There was only one B between them.

“When I transferred in, I saw a difference (in the classroom),” said Torres, who primarily runs on the 4x400 team. “It’s really a difference in the things we can do. We take a lot of time and put them into our grades. We also know if we get in trouble outside of school, it will affect us and track.

“It kind of sets an image.”

As much as they’ve added to the relay core, Hackney and Torres have also excelled as individuals.

Torres set a personal record in the 500-meter race this year with a 1.17.02.

Hackney, a 4x400 specialist, in an early January meet posted a 7.09 in the 55-meter dash.

“We already had a strong program, but definitely having the addition of … them has strengthened the program even more,” Gary said. “It was like putting together a Dream Team. It was something we had always hoped for but wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not.”

Many of the runners, including the transfers, are on the track together year round, so there was already a sense of familiarity when Hackney and Torres joined the team.

“I think their grades are much better than they’ve ever been, their social skills – just everything. It was a really good move for them to make,” Gary said. “Our goal is to keep (the team) humble. Sometimes when kids experience success, they lose sight of what they’re supposed to be doing. Our goal is to keep them humble – keep them hungry, so that they’re not satisfied doing what they’re doing and so that they strive to get better.”

Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan