The Track and Field Lady Roadrunners travelled to Gulf Shores, Ala. to participate in the University of Mobile Invitational on Saturday. It had been soggy all week in south Alabama and Saturday was no different.
Track and Field meets will usually go on even if it is raining, but not if there is persistent lightning in the area. The meet got underway with the 5,000 Meter Run, and then the lightning shut things down.
Though the meet organizers did all they could to get the meet back underway, there was a long string of storms coming across Mobile Bay that were set to cause lightning in the area for most of the day. The meet had to be cancelled.
Fortunately, the 5,000 Meter Run featured three really fast Roadrunners with freshman Riley Jo Ford, junior Alex Gass, and senior Kay Vradenburgh competing in the lone completed event in Gulf Shores. In the race, Riley Jo ran away from everyone early and cut 19 seconds from her fastest ever 5K when crossed the line first in 18:29.
Meanwhile, Alex was battling for second place with conference rival Isabel Valenzuela from the University of Mobile. After a couple of position swaps, Alex pulled away with three laps remaining in the 12 ½ lap race to finish second in a personal best time of 19:02.
Kay fought hard for two miles, but the last mile would prove it would not be her best day. She finished in 19:40, which was good for 7th place overall. It was still her third fastest 5K ever.
While the Roadrunners were busy taking care of business in the 5,000 Meters, there were two ladies competing in the Long Jump: junior Vanessa Rivera and freshman Briana Ray. Though the event was not completed due to the weather, Vanessa was almost able to Long Jump her way into the Dalton State record book. She leaped past the Roadrunner record on her one completed attempt, but the competition did not complete and, therefore, was not officially recorded.
The next event was the 4X800 Meter Relay. Freshman Kayla Mattox started the event with her leg but was pulled off the track before completing a handoff to the second runner. The lightning caused a delay. After about an hour wait, the meet was back on until more lightning caused the meet to be canceled.
Most other teams would have called it a day and packed up the bus to go home. But that was not the end of the day. The Roadrunners were anxious to put their fitness to the test. After all, this was the last chance to race prior to the SSAC Championship meet.
They got on the bus and drove north for a few hours. Once they were out of the rain, they found a track along the route, parked the bus, and got off to run a 1500 Meter race. Sophomores Kathryn Vradenburgh, Kate Roberts, and Haley Tillery, juniors Rebecca Poe and Rachel Ward, and freshman Kayla Mattox all toed the line together to see just where they stood. It wasn't a race against other schools, but it was a race against the clock.
Once all had crossed the finish line, there were five personal bests from the group of six! Vradenburgh finished in 4:53, Roberts in 5:11, Tillery in 5:16, and Poe and Mattox in 5:28. It was a great run in makeshift circumstances. The times were not recorded anywhere officially, but that didn't matter. It was a satisfying day.
While the running Roadrunners were busy setting personal bests, freshman Suzana Rivera was throwing her discus. Once again, there were no official measurements, but she took advantage of the opportunity to throw, even if it was only against herself!
QUOTES FROM COACH
Comments From Coach Dean Thompson:
"What a crazy weekend! There was much more to the weekend than just the meet. There were some obstacles that could have discouraged the team. None of those things were within their control, but they were things that can take your mind off the task at hand and keep you from performing your best. They each shoved those potentially negative thoughts to the back of their minds when it came time to compete."
"I was so happy for Riley Jo and Alex in the 5K. The former has been looking for a sub 18:40 5K for a long time, and the latter really wants to get under 19:00. Riley Jo was able to reach her goal, but Alex just missed hers. Still, it was a significant personal best, and I know she's really happy with that."
"Kay wasn't at her best, but we can get so caught up in where we are today and forget about the past. A couple of years ago, Kay would have been over the moon with her time. Today, she wasn't satisfied. Though my heart hurts for her to be unhappy, it's great to have an athlete who wants so badly to do her best every time out."
"We have more field event athletes than we have ever had and I'm having a great time watching Bri, Vanessa, and Suzana compete in those events. They have a passion to do their best in an effort to help the team. And they add so much to the team in their attitudes and the encouragement and enthusiasm they bring to every meet."
"The stop on the trip home was something that was certainly not planned prior to the meet being cancelled, but these ladies have worked hard to improve. It was important to get in some competition so that they could prove to themselves that all the work has been paying off. But just think about what they did. They rode on a bus for four hours, got off the bus, warmed up, and ran better than they had ever run before. Talk about great character! It was really a special thing to watch."
"This is my fourth track season at Dalton State, and we've never had a better group of competitors. In addition, we've never had a group that enjoyed each other's company so much. "These ladies are going to look back on these days 20 years from now and remember them as great days. It is humbling to be a part of something so special. I say it all the time, but I mean it every time; I'm so proud of these ladies, their accomplishments, their academic footprint on our campus, and the integrity they display each and every day."
Most of the Lady Roadrunners only have one meet left, the SSAC Championship meet in two weeks at William Carey (Miss.) in Hattiesburg, Miss. on April 28 & 29.