For the Oyster River High School track and field team, most weekday afternoons are spent practicing drills and lifting weights. This changed on Tuesday, January 8th, when the male sprint crew instead headed to the University of New Hampshire for a meet like no other.
Held as a fundraiser for the university’s own track and field teams, the Wildcat Relays give high schoolers from around the state an opportunity to compete in unique events that are run as a team, as opposed to individually. A week prior, on January 2nd, the girls’ sprinters won three events and the distance group placed third in another. Following this success, the boys looked to continue to excel under the challenge of a competitive environment as both teams move forward towards the Division II New Hampshire state meet.
“[The meet] is unique because it is only relays and it brings a mix of teams from all over the state without focusing on divisional lines,” said Oyster River head coach Nick Ricciardi. “Because of this, the goal going into the relays was to just have some fun running a race that is not frequently run.”
As noted by Ricciardi, some of the day’s races are not typically run at other meets, one of which being the shuttle dash. This event involves runners alternating between two lanes of the 55 meter dash runway, telling teammates to go vocally as opposed to handing off the traditionally used baton of other relays. The same format is also used for the meet’s 55 meter shuttle hurdle race, and both relays are unique to the meet within the state of New Hampshire.
“Before the race, we were a bit unprepared since three out of the four of us had never run the shuttle dash before,” said Cameron St. Ours (‘19), who was the team’s only experienced member in the relay. “It was a learning experience for everyone. You always feel a bit overwhelmed since the race is different than others that you run in a season.”
Teammate Jackson Deely (‘20) agreed, saying, “even though I had run 55 meter races before, I was nervous because the relay seemed a lot different… but it turned out to be something I honestly enjoyed a lot.”
Alongside having different races, St. Ours agreed that the dynamic of the afternoon was also part of what made the meet special. “Because there are only boys, it allows for many more teams to be in one area. Since there were a lot of teams that we had never raced, and will never race again, it’s a unique scene in terms of competition,” he said of the meet’s multiple divisions.
Despite the tougher pool of competition, both sets of 55 meter shuttle relay teams finished within the top 15, with St. Ours’ team picking up 9th along with members Sidonio LaBelle-Brown (‘20), Connor Quigley (‘20), and Owen MacManus (‘20). The second team, composed of Deely, Carl Wierda (‘22), Dylon Thompson (‘20), and William Graff (‘20), finished 15th out of 32 teams.
Making the strong finishes more impressive, LaBelle-Brown noted one of the day’s challenges came with the timing of the meet. “[The Wildcat Relays] are right after school in the middle of the week which makes it hard because it’s more stressful throughout the day. You have a lot of time to sit around and wait which means you worry even more when you get there.”
Graff agreed, but added, “it can be hard to shake off the grogginess, though once you get warmed up, the adrenaline takes over and you become much more motivated. Having the Division I teams there also made it seem more competitive, which helped get us all moving.”
Overall, the team walked away with a sense of pride following the meet. “I am happy with the performances today,” said Ricciardi. “Every repetition out of the blocks in competition is important for different reasons, and today it was fun to show depth and strength of the program in a meet with Division I and II teams.”
Though the Wildcat Relays were a fun stop along the way, the athletes agreed that the meet’s biggest benefit was giving them more preparation before the state meet. “The Wildcat Relays were a perfect way to end the regular season and kick off the competitive season as we move towards states,” said Deely.
With the strong finishes at the relays, the team will continue training for the state meet at Dartmouth’s Leverone Field House on February 3rd.