For the past 10 years the Marysville Pilchuck 1,600 girls relay team has passed down its legacy — literally.
Each year at the district track meet, the girls bring out the legacy stick, which according to the team they carry around in a flute case and it bears the names of all four members of the team every year since 2004.
“It has four names (added) each year and there are a whole bunch of rituals that go with it,” said Marysville Pilchuck senior Charlee Pilon, who runs the second leg on for this year’s team. “It’s a huge tradition and we pass it down each year. So we take it really seriously.”
The Tomahawks 1,600 relay team has qualified for state in each of those seasons. This year’s team made up of Pilon, Amanda Klep, Bri King and Mackenzie Nolte, said they hope to bring back a state championship. Going into state the girls have the third-best 4A time in the state this season, just behind Holy Names and Mount Si.
The same group of Tomahawks went into state last year ranked No. 1, but King was unable to race due to injuries sustained in a car accident and the team failed to qualify for the finals.
That disappointment is something that drives this year’s team to find more success, but that isn’t the only reason. The Marysville Pilchuck prom is Saturday night, the same day as the 1,600 relay finals, and the girls hope to have some new jewelry to go with their dresses.
“We want championship medals to go with our prom dresses,” Pilon said. “Our goal is to win and then wear our medal for prom.”
The race is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. and prom begins at 8:30 p.m., leaving the girls little time to get ready for the dance after the big race.
Marysville Pilchuck track coach Randy Davis said the girls started making plans as soon as school announced the date of prom.
“There are a lot of special preparations going into this day,” Davis said. “There’s a plan for running the race and going to get ready for the prom.”
Davis said should the girls win, he’s not even sure that there will be time to stick around for the award ceremony.
While special preparation may have been planned because of prom, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t focused on the race.
“Being seniors now, we’re hoping to kind of pave the way for our upcoming underclassmen and just kind of set a good example for them,” Nolte said.
And that feeling describes what the spirit of the legacy stick created 10 years ago is all about.
Davis and the girls agree part of the reason the team has been so successful over the past decade is how close the camaraderie that exists between its participants.
“To be a good relay member you have to be selfless and you have to realize that you have a certain role and you go in and you do that,” Klep said. “If you’re all about yourself, you’re not going to be successful.”
The success of the 1,600 team has trickled down to the other girls’ relay teams. The 400 and 800 teams are both also ranked in the top 10 going into this weekend’s state meet.
Sophomore Bianca Acuario is the only non-alternate member of the three teams that isn’t a senior — and she is prepared to help the Marysville Pilchuck relay “legacy” live on.
“Running with these girls has been a great experience and it’s something I will truly miss,” Acuario said. “I know that I will have to try best to carry on their legacy that they have here.”
Several years ago Davis started putting more emphasis on the relays to help promote a team atmosphere as well as something else he said coaches shouldn’t forget to offer their athletes.
“(Relays) are fun and ultimately people shouldn’t forget whatever kind of talent you have it’s still got to be fun otherwise talented kids won’t want to do it,” Davis said. “I think it just shows that we emphasize it here and they’re proud of it.”
The Tomahawks have 13 athletes going to this weekend’s state meet and nearly half of them are members of the one of the three girls relay teams. Pilon and Nolte run all three relays for the Tomahawks. Between individual events and relays, athletes are allowed to do up to four events.
“It’s fairly rare (to compete in all three relays) because state-level relay teams usually have state-level sprinters and our kids choose to emphasize the relays,” Davis said.
In four years, Davis has seen his senior group of girls relay runners go from mild-mannered freshman to a group that expects to be successful.
“I’ve seen them become a little more feisty in their competitiveness on the track,” Davis said. “The first year they were out here, not that they weren’t competitors, but they were a little bit more tentative. That’s just part of maturing and the growing of confidence. Now they’re willing to stick their nose in and not wait for the first 50 of a 400 and just go from the get go. What I’ve seen in their growth in their attacking nature in every single race.”
Pilon summed up the team’s mindset best.
“We’re not going to do anything but win,” she said. “That’s the mindset we’re going in with. We don’t run this to lose.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.