5/28/14 EA Relay Team takes second in state championship
Photos by Karen Carter/Mebane Enterprise
Eastern Alamance High School believes there is no “I” in “team,” and four athletes have proven that to be the case.
Malik Wilson, Ryan Woods, Lamont Robinson, and Saadiq Sweezer finished second in the state track and field competition in the 800 Relay with a time of 1:28.34.
They broke records, said their coach Ricky Morton, “accomplishing a 4x2 school record of 1:28.34, 4x2 regional runner up, state runner up 4x2, 4x1 school record of 42:86, 4x1 regional runner up, and city county champions.”
They have run varsity track and field for four years, have run track together on the same relay team since they were sophomores, took home state awards as juniors, decided as seniors to go one more time despite the fact that two of them excelled in football and one in basketball. This year as seniors, they broke records and came out way ahead of other track stars.
They defeated relay teams faster than them, said Wilson, and teams built totally on four men running track, not other sports, said Robinson.
And the one Eagle track star—having earned a state championship first-place finish in the Indoor 500 meters earlier in the year on Feb. 7—sacrificed his own practice time in the individual 400 dash in track and field to coach and motivate his relay teammates.
Sweezer was the regional champion in the 400 dash going into the state competition two weeks ago.
Sweezer hurt his quad in practice right before the state championship and played, pushed through pain, he said, a factor that could have cost him the first-place finish.
“If my quad wasn’t hurting, I’d had a better chance.”
But his coach said something different. In his first year at Eastern as head coach of track and field, Morton said, “I’m blessed with this relay team. For them, it’s all about ‘us.’ With his training, instilled in him at an early age to run track, Saadiq could have easily gotten a gold medal in the 400. But he put the team first instead of training for the individual 400 dash. He worked on relays.”
Wilson said about his teammate, “Saadiq finally put some time in for himself. We and coach wanted him to, but he put us first.”
Sweezer said, “It makes me feel it’s more personal and rewarding. These guys wanted to win and were serious about it when they could have said, ‘I’m basketball, I’m football; I don’t want to run track.’ But they wanted to compete—and compete against athletes that take track seriously.”
“We were determined to get a ring,” said Wilson.
The team earned the second-place finish in the 800 Relay on May 16 in Greensboro at the Aggie Stadium at A & T.
“That’s huge, second in the state, competing against teams that run track only,” said Robinson, a basketball player named all state, all region, all conference, having broken many records in basketball, and running track with that same fierce competitiveness. “It helped us; we played competitive from football and basketball, then came to track and had a great year, coming in second in the state championship with only one track runner that runs track, a relay team of one track runner, one basketball player, and two football players.”
“We broke records,” said Wilson. “Last year as juniors, we came in fourth. This year we broke the records twice in the 800 Relay and in the 400 Relay.
Our times were faster, mine faster than they’ve ever been.
We’ve bonded, been together on the same relay team for three years when most teams changed relay players every year. We had fun being together, learned a lot about each other. I’ve never been a track guy. Coming in second, it was great.”
“The training we put in this year was a lot harder than last year,” said Robinson about the work of the senior relay team.
“That’s motivation,” said Wilson, “seeing kids faster than us when I was a freshman. Now we’re beating them.”
Wilson and coach Morton mentioned some of their record-breaking stats: In their junior year, they were number one in the 3A Mid-State Conference in the 800 Relay, number one in the county with the 800 Relay, and fourth in the state with the 800 Relay.
This year, in their senior year, the relay team placed number one in the 3A Mid-State Conference in the 400 Relay, second in the conference in the 800 Relay, second in the region in both the 400 and 800 Relay, and second in the state in the 800 Relay.
Woods commented on what made the team successful: chemistry and work ethic.
“We worked hard at practice; that’s what got us here.”The difference in breaking records, coming in second against teams based on athletes running only in the sport of track, came from doing the “little things,” said Woods. He and Robinson spoke about the hand offs in practice.
“Making hand offs precise challenged us,” said Robinson. “One good hand off can win the race; one bad hand off can lose the race. We perfected it
For Wilson, the little things they perfected included improving running form, knowing how to run the curves, working on the stride and curve not exerting all your energy in the curve (a mental thing).
“Whatever he does, he does 110 percent even if it’s not his sport,” said Sweezer about Woods.
“He’s the one who surprised me the most these four years. He was an average athlete when he started. Now he’s one of the best in the state.”
“I didn’t plan on running track my senior year,” said Woods. “Malik came to me and showed me he wanted me to run and we could have a shot at the state.”
“They were dedicated,” said coach Morton. “Once they put their minds to it, they did it. They were self-motivated and always want to do the right thing.
I gave Saadiq and them a lot of responsibility and freedom to come up with practice plans and work together. They were the underdog and they didn’t want to let each other down. I saw it; even when things went wrong and they do, they held each other accountable. It was nice watching them develop. Saadiq was a secondary coach. They loved each other, but if you took a day off, they let you know about it.
That was nice, strict on the consequences of not running hard, or being late for the bus or practice.”
As their coach, Morton told them it was their decision, not his, whether they ran track together this year as seniors. Once they made the decision, they went after it.
“Coach trusted us and we trusted him,” said Robinson. “He helped us work harder and said, ‘do your thing.’ We knew what we needed to do and he let us do it.”
Robinson—all state champion in basketball—is headed to Mount St. Mary’s to play collegiate basketball after graduation from Eastern. Wilson, a football signee, is committed to playing that sport at North Carolina A & T after graduation. Woods, a football signee, is headed to play his sport at Davidson after graduation. And the Eagle track star, Sweezer—state championship winner of indoor track and field and relay teammate, is working on his plans for collegiate study.
Celebrating their successful records, accomplishments, and most of all, their bond together of running as a Relay team at Eastern Alamance High School are the state runner up track team members with their coach Ricky Morton (second from right). Pictured are (l-r) Lamont Robinson, Ryan Woods, Saadiq Sweezer, coach Ricky Morton, and Malik Wilson.