DeKALB – Dre Brown thought dreams of qualifying for the state meet in the 4x200 might be over after last year’s sectional meet, at least for a few years.
The Barbs crossed the line one-hundredth of a second behind second-place Machesney Park Harlem, and a team that consisted of three graduating seniors failed to qualify.
“It was really disappointing,” said Brown, now a sophomore. “We really didn’t know what we would have coming into this season.”
But one year later, the Barbs are back in the mix for a state berth in both the 4x100 and 4x200, and they’re better than last year.
Even though coach Tim Holt knew the Barbs had the potential to be better this year in both relays, he didn’t realize exactly how the season would play out.
After a few top athletes didn’t go out for the team, two freshmen have emerged to join Brown, junior Drew Paszotta and sophomore Eriq Torrey, who ran in mostly frosh-soph races last year.
“I was thinking of a couple of other guys that might come out that didn’t happen,” Holt said. “It was nice that we have these younger kids to be able to step up. We have a lot of depth in that area.”
Senior Michael Tayo started the season as a member of DeKalb’s relay teams, but when he was injured, sophomore Jalen Cole took his spot in the group. When Cole suffered an injury, freshmen James Robinson and David Long both battled for spots, and Long has taken the spot for the foreseeable future, though Holt said things could change depending on the outcome of Friday’s conference meet.
Even with the injuries, the Barbs are out-performing last year’s relay teams.
The Barbs won both sprint relays at the Northern Illinois Invitational last week, and though they haven’t broken the automatic state qualifying times, DeKalb should be in the mix for a top-two spot at the sectional in both relays.
There has certainly been a learning curve with runners adjusting to varsity races. In sprint relays, runners must keep running through the exchange zones to ensure a swift handoff, and that’s something the younger Barbs have struggled with at times. Brown said there have been difficulties along the way, but his less-experienced teammates are learning.
“You’re competing against kids who are 18 and 17, way older than them,” Brown said. “We try to keep their confidence up. They’re pretty smart, so they know what they’re doing.”
Those small detriments only make the fast times more exciting, because the potential for growth over the next few years is huge.
While qualifying is a goal this year, Holt is setting his sights even higher over the next couple of seasons.
“Hopefully they keep improving,” Holt said. “If they keep getting better, what’s the limit? Going downstate, qualifying for the finals, placing in the state meet, who knows?”