The construction of a successful relay team in track and field has so many parameters.
There’s the chemistry between the four runners and believe it or not, there are the personalities of the four.
Then, there’s the strategy. The coach has to align the four runners in the proper order. In the case of a medley relay, the runners have to be assigned the proper distances.
Then, there’s the talent. A good relay team needs precision within the baton handoffs, with every stride. It has to perform like a well tuned machine, one with all pistons churning, moving, all for the one common goal.
Frankly, it’s more a work of art than a track and field event.
Kearny High School head track and field coach Al Perez knows that all too well.
“When you’re putting together a relay team, it’s always different,” Perez said. “You always have different kids.”
Back in early April, Perez formed a sprint medley relay team of Ozzy Cabides, Diego Torales, Rauly Cordero and Liam Solano.
“Coming into the season, it was a little iffy,” Cordero said. “We’re all running together for the first time as a relay.”
The quartet ran together for the first time at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association Relays and immediately, they knew they had something special.
“I had a special feeling,” Cabides said. “It was the first time we ran together, but I was real confident that we could do big things.”
“I thought it was an interesting team to watch,” Perez said. “They won that race and it was very eye opening. At the time, I thought it would be a special group.”
Perez thought that the quartet had the makings of being a sprint medley relay team that could actually qualify for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
“I took over in 2004 and we never had anyone qualify,” Perez said. “But this was something that they really wanted.”
The Kearny SMR team headed into the last weekend of for qualifying at the East Coast Relays last weekend needing to cut six seconds off their fastest time of the season.
“Our coach (Perez) told us that we were behind in our 800 (meter) times,” said Solano, the younger brother of former Kearny track standout Cayleigh Solano who runs the 800-meter leg of the relay. “I thought it was crazy to think we could still make the nationals.”
The relay is comprised of four legs _ a 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter.
“We worked hard to try to get to the Nationals,” said Torales, the 100-meter runner. “Once we raced together, we definitely knew we had a chance. It’s a tough process, but we knew we could do it.”
Sure enough, the Kardinals dropped their time more than the six necessary seconds, down to 3:36.
“It was incredible,” said Cabides, who runs the 400-meter leg. “I was a little nervous, but I kept telling myself that if I ran my hardest, we had a shot. I didn’t know if we would make it, but once I saw Liam cross the finish line, I was so excited, because I knew we were going.”
So the Kearny quartet _ along with coaches and alternate sophomore Breisly Franco _ are loading up a mini-bus and heading down Route 95 South to Carolina. Franco might not be able to run, but he now holds the school record for the 400-meter high hurdles.
The Kardinals are scheduled to race Friday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. at the Irwin Belk Track on the campus of North Carolina A&T University.
“It gives us a little recognition for the school and the program,” Perez said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
“We had the right mix,” said Cordero, who runs the 200-meter leg. “We could count on each other. We were actually pretty good. I didn’t think we would be able to go, but now we’re getting the chance. All of us have put the time in to get better. Now we’re ready to go.”
The Kardinals are all excited to get the opportunity to extend their season an extra week.
“It’s incredible,” Cabides said. “It’s a special feeling. It’s my senior year. I’ve never been to the Nationals before. I’m now going with my boys, one last time. This is going to make up for the things I didn’t accomplish over my career.”
“It’s going to be good to show everyone what we’re doing,” Torales said. “We’re putting Kearny on the map.”
It’s safe to say Kearny was already on the collective map, thanks to the incredible litany of soccer standouts, but it’s true. The success in track and field has been somewhat limited.
This week, the Kardinals worked out at a friendlier pace to get ready for the nationals.
“We ran the low mileage, doing a lot of speed work,” Solano said. “Practices are usually much longer than what we’ve been having. I never thought I’d get the chance like this with my teammates. It’s very hard to do.”