The art of the hand-off: Senior relay athletes pass down ideas of family, team work

Successful teams are created whenever the members stop relying on the talent of themselves and begin working together. Each individual athlete may be good, but when they’re put together they’re great. Seniors Makayla Howard and Quinteria Johnson have found this to be true in track as they run on the relay team.

Makayla has been doing track since her freshman year, giving her time to gain experience and make a lasting impression.

“Makayla is precious,” track coach Stacy Beal said. “Her smile is contagious. She is realizing that she has a God-given talent, too. She is very fast.”

Q originally began her track career in 7th grade and has been on varsity all four years of high school.

“Q is my adopted daughter,” Beal said. “She lived with me for almost a year due to some adverse family circumstances. This year, I have seen her grow into a strong leader for her team and I love that. It took a while, but I am finally seeing the young lady I knew she could be.”

Beal pushes her athletes to work together and rely on each other which helps create a positive team dynamic.

“Sometimes it’s hard for track kids to understand the team concept,” Beal said. “However, I always try to reinforce it in my conversations with them and explain how even scoring one point can be the difference in a team championship.”

Although track focuses on individual events, group effort is at the heart of the sport.

“My favorite thing about relays is getting a lead for the rest of the team,” Q said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that I contributed to our win.”

The relay teams bring a team component to track that requires communication and trust.

“We have four people on relays, so each person plays a part in the race,” Makayla said. “If one person in the relay doesn’t do their part, then the whole relay won’t run well, which could ultimately cost the meet for the entire team.”

Once the athletes start comprehending the teamwork aspect, they begin to find that this is their favorite part about track and focus less on themselves as individuals.

“My favorite thing about relays is how it’s a team event,” Makayla said. “I like events where you are runnng with other people better than individual events.”

Throughout Q’s years in track, she’s seen that the process of building a united team begins. That unity then transfers to a meet.

“If one person doesn’t come to practice and they’re on the relay team,” Q said, “the rest of the legs in the race can’t run because they will be missing a leg to handoff to.”

The track team builds their bond by spending time together and encouraging each other at practice.

“I encourage them to stretch and warm up together and then to congratulate a job well done,” Beal said. “We often gather and I ask the girls if they noticed good efforts in practice and it gives them a chance to recognize their teammates. In the end, we feel a sense of team and family.”

Once this sense of family between teammates is created, comfort can be found in them and nerves begin to subside with the assurance that the team with always be there.

“If I’m running an individual race, I get really tense and tight because I don’t want to mess up,” Makayla said. “If I’m running with a team, I’m more laid back, and I feel like my team is going to be there no matter what.”

Having already experienced this over the last three years, Q understands how important it is to solidify a team with new members.

“I’ve had to adapt to a new team with new people, speeds, and personalities each year as the seniors graduate,” Q said. “It can be hard, but once you get to know the new people it gets easier.”

Beal relates to the sadness of leaving behind teammates that have become family as she plans to retire after this year, but the memories that were created from successful teamwork will stay with her forever.

“I am looking forward to a great final year as a coach,” Beal said. “I plan to retire at the end of the year, and I am trying to enjoy every minute I have left because I have loved my job. I started my life of athletics as a Tiger, but I will die a Viking.”