First they’d glance at Kelty Oaster’s watch, then to Sidney Shelton as she finished legging out the final 100 meters of the 4x400 relay, then back to the watch, their eyes moving like those of a black kit-cat klock until their teammate finally crossed the finish line.
When Oaster punched stop, their eyes fixed on the time. Before going into full celebration mode, they clarified their mark, a 4:06.34. With that, Karli Bortner, Anne Bair, Oaster and Shelton officially erased a six-year Gettysburg school record previously held by Da’Jah Spivey, Suzanna Abele, Erin Stephan and Olivia Sherman, a 4:06.8.
“It was so close. We knew it was down to the second and we didn’t know for sure,” Bair said. “Kelty’s dad yelled the time and we all started screaming and jumping. Give Sidney credit. That was an amazing split at the end, almost two seconds faster than her open 400.”
Getting the mark at last weekend’s Stan Morgan Invitational at Carlisle was crucial to the individual postseason plans for the Warriors. Entering today’s YAIAA Championships at Dallastown, they can now focus on individual events.
Though they’ll take another shot at the 4x400 at the end of the evening, they’re hoping the school record will also be good enough to push them into the District 3 Class 3A meet at Shippensburg on May 17. Last year’s lowest qualifier entered with a time of 4:08.80, but the qualifying guideline is 4:04 according to the piaad3.com website.
With rain in the forecast tonight, it was important for every athlete to come into the conference meet with times worthy of district qualification.
The Warriors thought they’d avoided any weather-related issues at Carlisle until the clouds broke open as Shelton got the baton.
“Anne was coming around the corner for the last 150, and all the sudden it started pouring,” Shelton said. “All the adrenaline hit me and I just tried to kick it. I’d rather run when it’s sunny and with no wind, but I didn’t want to let my teammates down. Chasing the teams in front of me really helped me.”
Carlisle won the race with a time of 4:02.43. Cumberland Valley was right behind with a 4:03.78. The Warriors had not lost the race at any other event this season They are the top seed by more than eight seconds entering today’s race.
Before each competitive meet, head coach Jeff Bair looks at the times and splits of their opponents, if available, to figure out the best order for his team. The goal is to line up each runner so as not to put them too far ahead or behind the leaders, depending on what best motivates them.
Last Saturday’s meet was the first time that Shelton had been the team’s closer. Coach Bair put her in the role because she had the most experience in the open 400.
“Certain runners run better when they’re chasing. They refuse to get further behind,” coach Bair said. “She’s the only one of the three that runs the 400 every meet and you always run faster in the relay because you’re not coming out of the blocks. For the last three weeks, I really wanted her to do a fly start so she could see how fast she really is.”
Bortner got the start for the Warriors. For more than half of their performances, they’ve run the race without the sophomore. During dual meets, Gettysburg’s jack-of-all-trades has put up consistent marks in the jumps, but filled in wherever needed to score points.
She was on the relay during the squad’s previous best time, a 4:12.5, achieved at the end of April in a dual meet against New Oxford.
“Karli’s really competitive and we know that we’re going to get a lot out of her,” Anne Bair said. “We know she’ll go into the race wanting to do well.”
Oaster, arguably the most valuable runner in the squad, took the third leg. During the same meet, Oaster reset her own 800 record, taking third with a time of 2:19.85. She is one of four Gettysburg girls to hold at least a piece of two historic marks.
“Both were equally important to me,” she said. “It’s nice to break any school record. It feels really good to leave a legacy and show that I did something while I’m here.”
Oaster enters today’s YAIAA meet with the top time in both that race and the 400 (59.74), but will focus on the former.
“She always gives it all in practice and it motivates us to try our best,” said Shelton, who will represent Gettysburg in the 400 today, ranked sixth (1:03.1) upon entry.
Then it was Anne Bair’s turn. The freshman made a name for herself as a runner this fall when she qualified for the PIAA Cross Country Championships. She’s focused more on distance races so far this year, but her determination makes her a shoe-in for the mid-distance relay.
“Running the 4x4 and 4x8 all season has helped me with speed stuff,” she said. “Running cross country and the 3,200 feels like more of a strength thing.”
Bair passed the baton to Shelton and the rest is new history. The girls agreed uniformly that none of them — all underclassmen — expected the mark to fall this early in their careers.
The same could not be said for their coach, who sent the girls a photograph of the mark to beat in a group text the morning before the race.
“It was more than possible; it was just a matter of doing it,” Bair said. “I had all the confidence in the world.”
Adam Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter:@GoodOleTwoNames