Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Before this season, the entirety of Unioto’s 4×400-meter relay team had never ran a varsity race.
Junior Amber Cottrill, the oldest of the group, didn’t participate in the sport during her freshman or sophomores years, sophomores Erin Callahan and Abi Seals didn’t run last spring, and freshman Karlee Renner is still getting her feet wet at the high school level.
Cottrill’s decision to run, like Callahan and Seals’, was based on not wanting to live with regret.
“When we played Sheridan in the Division II district semifinal this past year [during basketball season], their fastest defender guarded me,” Cottrill said. “I talked to their coach after the game and he told me I was really fast and that I needed to try track. So I started thinking more about it. My mom went to college for track and my brother only ran his senior year. He just talked about how he regretted not running more than one year. I didn’t want to regret the same.”
This spring, fate took over and brought the entire quartet together.
Now, they’re competing at the regional level and aiming towards punching their tickets to the OHSAA State Meet … and there’s no regrets.
“The first time we ran the 4×4, coach [Brian Netter] just kind of threw us together,” Cottrill said. “So we ran at Vinton County and beat Vinton County’s boys team and thought, ‘OK, we might be pretty good.’ We ran a 4:36 that day, which Netter said we could qualify for regionals with.”
But the group didn’t stop there.
“We just kept cutting off time and eventually got down to a 4:22,” Cottrill said. “When we got to the district meet, we knew we had to cut more time off in order to advance. So we ran a 4:13.”
At the district meet, Renner was the team’s anchor while Cottrill took the first leg, Seals took the second and Callahan manned the third.
“It was a great experience. Going into the 4×4, I was really nervous,” Renner said. “When I got the baton, my split time was way faster than I’ve ever ran before.”
Out of the group, when asked who had the best kick, they simultaneously pointed at Seals.
“I feel like I’ve always had the ability to sprint and stop, and soccer has had something to do with that,” Seals said. “I can pace myself and then I can sprint. It’s just always been natural. I didn’t run freshman year. I regretted that.”
While Seals may have a knack for making up time, the relay, as a whole, depends on its sense of togetherness. The four teammates have a close bond that helps them run on meet days.
“I think our chemistry makes us really good, on and off the track,” Callahan said. “We always hang out outside of the sport and when we get here, we push each other in practice. So during meets, it just comes natural.”
The group’s finish time of 4:13.99 at the district meet was good enough to place second and send them to the Division II regional preliminaries, which they’ll compete in Thursday evening at Muskingum University.
While they know little about the competition they’ll be competing against, they’re not focused on the competition in the first place. They’re looking in the mirror.
“All we know is the times that are on the sheets but you can’t go off of those,” Callahan said. “I think we have a real shot at qualifying for the state meet. We’re just going to have to push ourselves harder than we ever have. Focus on us.”