Sum greater than the parts

Relay team finds success, support through relationships

Personal records, podium finishes, and individual accolades are all things most people associate with track and field, but there is also a team component that supports each athlete which is represented by the relay teams. The varsity girls 4×100 team is composed of freshman Camryn Lightsey, juniors Ja’nasja Gafford and Farrah Wilson, and sophomore Saniyah Johnson. Each of the girls has a different personality, strength, and connection to the sport, but in the end they all have one common goal that bonds them.

Camryn said she believes relays are all about trust and if the individual athletes cannot trust themselves or their teammates to get the baton in hand and cross the finish line, the lack of trust can cause problems to arise.

“The most difficult thing about training for a relay is probably not taking off too early and just making sure that the other person gets the baton,” Camryn said. “Sometimes we take off early or too late and end up running into each other, but once we get a lot of practice in and we trust our steps everything goes smoothly.” 

Members of the relay team said that confidence and trust is a large part of track and field because while the sport itself is physical, having the right mentality is a necessity when athletes set up in the starting blocks.

“The most challenging thing about track is probably giving your all and finishing your race, because sometimes you can get discouraged,” Ja’nasja said. “In relay events you have to work as a team as opposed to solo events where you’re doing everything yourself.”

When it comes to track,the team believes that you have to be comfortable and confident in your events. 

“Solo events are based on your skills alone,” Camryn said. “Someone that has really flexible hips could do well at hurdles, and someone that’s really good at jumping could do well at one of the jumping events. But relays are more of a team thing and you have to know your teammates well enough to avoid taking off early and you have to trust them enough to get to the finish line.”

All members of the relay agree that reassurance from teammates also helps boost confidence and can influence how individuals perform.

“The most challenging part is probably all the pressure that’s put onto you sometimes, because you have pressure for yourself but then if you’re on a relay team it adds more pressure,” Camryn said. “For me being a freshman on varsity is added pressure because a lot of people don’t get that opportunity and I’m really grateful to have that opportunity but there’s always a little pressure that comes with it. Whenever I get nervous or start doubting myself my teammates always uplift me and make me believe in myself.”

But regardless, having support from others amounts to nothing if you dont have faith

 in yourself.

“Always believe in yourself,” Saniyah said. “Don’t listen to anyone that says you can’t do or achieve anything. Always believe, and have confidence in your talents.”

Coaches have noticed that Ja’nasja is a solid member of the team, not just because of her talents, but because of her take-charge personality and her passion. 

“Ja’nasja has worked well with the relays and getting everyone together because she’s been on varsity since her freshman year,” head track coach Jennifer Pittman said. “Her experience brings a calmness to each relay team, but also a quiet confidence.”

Pittman sees Farrah as a vital part of the team because of how inclusive she is and her consistent work ethic. 

“Farrah is a leader on the track team by example,” Pittman said. “She speaks up when she has to, but she’s usually found just doing what I’ve asked everyone to do. She doesn’t complain, and is definitely one of the hardest working kids in the program.”

Pittman said that watching her athletes grow and mature over the years brings her joy and is what keeps her passionate about teaching and coaching. 

“The most rewarding part about my job is seeing the growth from freshman to senior year,” Pittman said. “I think the most interesting thing is that usually that growth is not just athletically related. It’s a maturing process where they grow mentally and emotionally. They are able to understand the reasons why certain practices are followed and can even start to impress upon the younger athletes their knowledge and wisdom. It’s rewarding to see when they finally ‘get it’.”

Pittman said that she hopes her athletes will take the lessons they learn on the track with them and use them to develop into positive role models.

My main goals for my athletes are for them to grow into capable, confident, and respectable young women who know their worth,” Pittman said. “I want them to be contributing members of society and use the skills that they are taught here about hard work, dedication, responsibility, reliability, teamwork, and punctuality in their everyday lives to make a difference.”

Each girl on the team supports and lifts up the others throughout the season and use setbacks as motivation for future wins.

“Your team is like your family,” Camryn said. “At the end of the day it’s you and them, it’s not just about how you did, it’s how everyone did in the relay. If everyone did their best then that’s all you can ask for, sometimes one person won’t be as good as the rest but that’s totally fine because we all have our off days, but really it’s about how we can all better ourselves together and just be the best relay team that we can become.”