The philosophy behind successful sprint relay teams in track is like a math whiz adding up 1 + 1.
Super, simple stuff.
The philosophy? Simply get the stick around the track as fast as possible.
Amarillo High’s state-qualifying and school record-setting 400- and 800-meter relay teams – the same four Sandies on each team – agree with the philosophy.
But no doubt, AHS boys track coach Steve Bergeski and his speedy quartet of senior Xa Landry-Britton, senior Tyreese Molden, sophomore JQ Ervin and junior Jameson Garcia believe speed is only part of their successful relay teams.
“When we build a relay we look for chemistry,” Bergeski said. “It is a little bit of being fast and handoffs. But with Coach (Tony Cavalier) Cav and Coach (Chad) Dunnam we have talked about this over the last four years and we try and get the same kids in all the relays. You have to have that chemistry. Having the same handoff and the same order, they have just really jelled this year.”
That chemistry was jump started before the track season began.
Leadoff runner Landry-Britton, an impressive sudden burst of energy out of the blocks, was a starter on the AHS’ regional finalist basketball team. He hadn’t run track the previous years.
“Oh yeah, I begged him to run track,” said Molden of fellow senior Landry-Britton. “I texted him every day. When he said yes, I know what we could do because he has the best start in all of Amarillo.”
Said Landry-Britton: “Usually, I didn’t really want to run track but this year I wanted to. I did get talked in to doing it. But I was ready. It has been a good thing.”
And, a chemistry thing the foursome believe in.
“Chemistry is very important,” Landry-Britton said. “When you are stressed and getting ready to handoff you have that confidence it’s going to be a good handoff because you trust that guy.”
Molden said with three of the four playing football together last fall the chemistry is real.
“Me, Jameson and JQ all played football so we already had that chemistry playing corner and receiver,” Molden said. “Ja, well that’s just a great friend of ours and a great teammate. Adding him has brought us even closer together.”
Garcia said the many days spent training together have produced a special bond.
“Chemistry is a big thing with us,” Garcia said. “We are all good friends and we have put in all this hard work. Just finish is our mindset. Finish as a team. Finish what we started.”
Ervin said since AHS was eliminated in the football playoffs, his goal is find a way to state.
“Coming out of football and losing to Colleyville I told the seniors we have to go to state in something,” Ervin said. “The chemistry we have is really important. It’s trust. You come in and you trust your teammate is going to take off at the right speed for the handoff.”
Speed has not been a problem for Amarillo High during 2022 in the sprint relays, reaching heights never before seen at Amarillo’s oldest high school.
AHS will run at the UIL Class 5A state track and field meet Friday in Austin with confidence from owning school records in the 400 and 800 relays.
Both records were set in the prelims and finals of the Region I-5A meet two weeks ago in Lubbock. The 400 mark at 41.33 was previously set way back in 1989, while the 800 mark at 1:26.15 broke a record set in 2019.
Bergeski and his runners know those times may not be good enough for a gold medal against the statewide talent 5A brings to the state meet.
“We can run faster,” said Molden, who joins rare air at AHS competing in three events as he is the Region I-5A champ in the 200. “We know we will have to.”
Bergeski not only believes in the chemistry of foursome, he believes the foursome play their roles perfect.
“Xa is so quick out of the blocks,” Bergeski said. “Being a basketball kid that quickness seems to transfer over from the court to the track, for sure. Then having Tyreese in the second leg, Coach Cav and I have talked about this, everybody wants to be that anchor leg. But you can kill a relay on that second leg if you have a stinger like Tyreese. He’s so smooth. He can dominate.”
AHS’ third leg is held down by the youngster of the group, gifted sophomore Ervin. He has not held the spot all year but has settled into the role.
“JQ has done a really good job in that third spot,” Bergeski said. “We have had a couple guys run there during the season but he’s been the guy lately. He does a tremendous job in the weight room. He’s a strong kid, a strong runner and knows how to run the curve.”
The AHS anchor is Division I football recruit Garcia. At a muscular 190 pounds he is simply a picture of speed and strength closing out the Sandies relays down the stretch.
“Obviously, having a guy as big and strong as Jameson who can just go get it, it’s special to have as your anchor,” Bergeski said. “You have to have somebody who can just go get it.”
AHS will open its bid for gold at 5 p.m. Friday in the 400, then follow that up at around 6:40 p.m. with the 800.
Making the medal stand as one of the top three in the state is on the minds of the foursome, who are often seen at meets running and cheering each other on after their relay leg has been completed.
“I want to be on that medal stand so bad,” Ervin said.
“Yes, definitely we know we have to run faster,” Landry-Britton said. “We are sitting third and fourth right now in the seeding. For us to get up there in every race we will have to get faster.”
And, no doubt, chemistry will be along for the fast ride.
Amarillo High at UIL state track in Austin
9:45 a.m. – Isaac McGill in 3200 meter run
5:00 p.m. – 400 meter relay (Xa Landry-Britton, Tyreese Molden, JQ Ervin, Jameson Garcia)
6:40 p.m. – 800 meter relay (Xa Landry-Britton, Tyreese Molden, JQ Ervin, Jameson Garcia)
7:35 p.m. – Tyreese Molden in 200 meter run
8:30 p.m. – Isaac McGill in 1600 meter run