High-mileage mission met with gustoApril 30, 2014
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
Cody Flamion quickly corrects himself. Yes, his first race at a track meet isn’t typically his last of the day. Neither is his second. But to say he saves energy for ensuing races? That’s not exactly the description.
“Just trying to make sure that I save enough for each one — well, not save enough but pushing through each one and making sure I go hard in them all,” said Flamion, a senior. “Just get a mindset of how fast I really want to push it.
“It’s just all-out for all three of them. Whatever I have left in each race, that’s what comes out.”
“All three of them,” for Flamion and a handful of other dogged distance runners, alludes to the 1,600-meter and 3,200 open races and the 3,200 relay at a track meet. And the “all-out” mentality is what leaves Flamion sucking wind with his right arm slung over his head, his left hand gripping his other wrist and his legs slightly wobbling as they search for a patch of grass on which to rest.
He’s just won the 1,600 at the Rangers’ dual meet with Jasper in early April.
Less than five minutes later, he’s on his feet. Time to move on.
Still looming is the 3,200, in which Flamion ends up finishing first as well. In the same meet, Jasper’s Tara Cassidy completes the same toilsome trio of races, winning all three. But even equipped with success, thoughts of “I don’t want to do this anymore” usually enter the Wildcat freshman’s head by the time the 1,600 rolls around, Cassidy admitted with a laugh.
By that point, with the 3,200 also to come toward the end of the meet, Cassidy still has some 3 miles ahead of her.
Forest Park boys coach Karl Hinson regularly uses both Flamion and junior Trey Dooley in the three races, but even he’s noticed a more fibrous mental makeup with Flamion, who began running the three events as a freshman.
During wrestling season, Flamion put in mileage when he could to prepare for track. When Hinson assigns weekend mileage to his runners now, his instruction to Flamion is usually to “just take it easy, Cody.”
“He’s never been like, ‘Oh gosh, Coach, you want me to run all three of those things?’ It’s always, ‘Hey, that’ll work.’ Or ‘Whatever you need me to do,’” Hinson said of the race-day agenda. “He could walk off the track at the end of the (3,200) and I could say, ‘Hey Cody, I need you to run a leg in this (1,600 relay),’ and he would do it.”
Did someone mention a fourth event? Sienna Crews’ ears perk up.
The Heritage Hills junior and two-time sectional champ and state finalist in the 1,600 has pushed even further, affixing a leg in the 1,600 relay to the distance triad as well.
While Crews loves the feeling she gets capping her day with one final lap around the track in each meet’s final event, the lead-up isn’t quite as picturesque as when she’s “jumpy and excited to get everything over with” waiting for the 1,600 relay.
Like Flamion, Crews ordinarily pushes herself a liiittle harder than most, even to the point where upchucking after events has become kind of standard. It happened at the Pike Central Relays, where she spewed after all four heats and left her coach a little concerned, asking, “Are you going to be ready for the next race?”
Just one second, Coach.
Real-time tinkering is key for successfully jockeying through the races. For instance, Flamion will often run the final leg of the 3,200 relay, and if Hinson sees second place as the only option, he’ll advise his anchor to simply maintain the position. But if the Rangers are in striking distance, it’s time to push it.
It’s similar for Crews, who tries engaging in each meet and each event with a strategy. If a race remains close, she’ll stay with whoever is in front of her. If she knows her lead is sufficient, she’ll conserve the burners for races still to come.
Coaches must always deal, too, with weighing an exhausted standout versus a fresh-legged newcomer. For Hinson, the rationale is as simple as a fatigued Flamion or Dooley “is going to be better than anything I have fresh.” And though she’s only used senior Latesha Merkel in the three events on seldom occasions, Northeast Dubois girls coach Tammy Schulthies equates the end-of-meet scenario to any other sport. Do you really want someone entering the game in the waning minutes who hasn’t stepped foot on the court yet?
“Sometimes when you get to the 3,200 and you’ve waited for your teammates to run all their races, and sometimes you’re just not mentally there,” Schulthies said. “It’s down to the wire and you’re not ready to go.”
Plus, there’s long-term logic behind the elongated exercise. Though Crews was skeptical about running 800s as a freshman, she said it proved vital to her shaving 17 seconds off her 1,600 time at regional that year. The same goes for Flamion, whose personal-best in the 1,600 (4:37) is still a good 15 seconds off a state-qualifying time by Hinson’s estimation.
“Some people may say, ‘Oh, well, Cody is just good and he’s making a mockery of (the competition),” Hinson said. “Well, no. It’s getting him ready for sectional.”
Nevertheless, it’s a long road. And the end of each meet offers solace to those soldiering through nearly 4 miles in just one meet.
As Cassidy grinds through the 3,200, “once you get to the mile, you just don’t care anymore,” she kidded. “You just want to get it done with.”
Then the countdown. Four laps. Three laps. Two, one….
By the end, her legs are numb. But in her mind, a bizarre bliss because “I can do all that and still do well,” she said.
And doing anything less?
“It probably would feel really weird,” Flamion said. “It wouldn’t feel right.”
Contact Joe Jasinski
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