A bitter pill to swallow, the Brookville Raiders’ 4x100-meter relay’s high expectations of winning a state title fell a stride short at the finish line.
Finishing second to Motivation at the PIAA Class 2A Track and Field Championships last month was a hard hurdle to get over, even with the foursome of Cabe Park, Jack Krug, Ian Thrush and Bryan Dworek qualifying for last weekend’s New Balance Outdoor Championships held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C..
They’ll probably never get over coming up short on a gold medal, but the relay’s performance that yielded a 14th-place finish Saturday in the 4x100 and a somewhat unexpected All-American fifth-place finish in the 800-meter sprint medley Sunday morning helps soften that disappointment.
“Just getting down there and running hard and everything that went with that, it was going to be success, but it couldn’t have ended much better,” Raiders head coach Dan Murdock said. “There was the whole range of emotion after states. They came back Tuesday after school and still wanted to run nationals. I gave them whole week off and that was tough for me. The second week we had to build into it. They weren’t into it yet, but last week all on board and we had a couple of really good practices and they were ready to go, but it took 2 1/2 weeks to get ready The disappointment at states hit them hard.”
The Raiders had to qualify for the 4x100 finals by being one of the top eight times among the nine preliminary races. So when they won their heat — Dworek holding off the anchor from a Virginia team — with a time of 42.113 seconds, there was hope. It wasn’t the Raiders’ best — 42.02 — but it was windy.
As it turned out, the 42.12 didn’t make the top-eight cut for the finals and wound up 14th. The eighth-place prelim time was 41.96 seconds while the top time was 40.71 from a Texas team, which won Sunday’s final with a time of 40.69 seconds.
“They were disappointed with not making the finals, but I told them what else they could do? They passed the baton well, Bryan got stick in lead and held it together, pulling away from the kid,” Murdock said. “They wanted to run under 42 and make finals, but they didn’t lay an egg. They won their heat, executed well.”
“It was fun getting back and winning a heat again, especially at nationals,” Dworek said. “I mean the only race we ever lost was at states and everyone knows if I was fully healthy we beat Motivation. So yeah, it was fun being healthy and winning.”
Thrush acknowledged it wasn’t easy getting revved up again for another big meet after the high school season ended.
“Yeah, states was definitely tough mentally and at first the thought of not going to nationals crossed all of our minds,” he said. “However, we did talk about it and decided to go. We took a couple-day break after states and I feel like that helped a little. Getting back into it was weird, but after so long it was just normal to get back to practicing. So it did take us a little to get our minds off of it and I feel like it still sucks to think about that race for all of us and that is something that will never change, but we did our best to just focus on the next competition, which was nationals and just try to prepare ourselves for that and have some fun while doing so.”
Park was the new addition to the relay that lost John Frank to graduation. Some recruiting was needed for Park, who at that point had played just football and wrestled.
“One day before wrestling practice, Bryan was working out in the field house,” Park said. “He came up to me and said if you run track this year, we have a good shot of winning states in the 4x100. If it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t have come out.”
His speed and a year of improvement set up quite a season and after finishing second at states in the 4x100 and then 14th at the national meet, there was just the unfamiliar sprint medley to run on Sunday.
The sprint medley starts with two 100-meter dashes, then a 200 leg with the anchor going 400 meters. Murdock had to submit valid times from meets — Thrush didn’t run an open 400 all year — so his submitted individual times from Krug in the 400, Thrush’s best in the 200 and Dworek and Park’s top times in the 100 was the best combination for submission and they got an invite.
But once they qualified, Murdock changed the order to Park (100), Krug (100), Dworek (200) and then Thrush in the anchor 400 as he did all year as well in the 4x400 relay.
“We worked on it three times as far as handoffs last week,” Murdock said. “The big thing was getting Bryan to receive the baton in his right hand, but we worked that and about the third time with Jack to Bryan, we got that smoothed out.
“We worked quite a bit with Bryan to Ian, because that handoff, if it was tight, that is the most difficult handoff. Luckily with the experience they’ve had indoors with 4x200, it’s the same kind of setup, they picked it up good. That was important. They knew what they had to do, win their heat and win it big. The order we were running, two better seconds than seeded would get us in the top six and we wound up 2 1/2 seconds.”
Only the top six finishers, even in an eight-lane final, receive All-American honors. In the medley relay, though, there was just one race and the top six were All-Americans.
The magic time? Something under 1:32. The Raiders’ time: 1:31.93. The winning time was 1:30.55 run by a team from Virginia.
Park led when he handed off to Krug and they never trailed in winning their heat … big.
“It was very rewarding because we’ve worked hard all year and finally got what we wanted,” Park said. “Going into the race, we knew we had a good chance of placing if we ran a perfect race. Coach told us it was probably going to take 1:32 to place, so when we ran a 1:31.93 we knew we were in good shape.”
The relay splits: Park (11.2, out of the blocks), Krug (10.5, with a running start), Dworek’s 21.5 in the 200 with a running start and Thrush’s career-best 400 split of 48.5 seconds. He ran a 48.6 in the 4x400’s come-from-behind win at the City of Hermitage Invite in April.
“It’s a little surprising and I feel like it hasn’t fully gotten to me that we were fifth in the whole nation,” Thrush said. “I felt like going into the weekend we had a shot at 4x100, but I felt like we had a little bit of a better shot in the medley, so obviously the goals were to medal and become All-American, but to actually do it is another thing and it is little bit surprising.”
“It was definitely rewarding and something all of us will never forget,” Dworek said. “We made some estimates on what we could get in the medley and we also looked up what placed last year. Our goal was 1:32 lows because that normally placed in the past years and when Ian crossed we were pretty excited because we had a good shot at placing.
“The race was very fun, it was something new, and all of us enjoyed the new challenge. The only handoff we had to learn was the handoff between Jack and I, but we were used to that last year. Ian and I were used to a 4x2 handoff, so it was pretty easy to execute all the handoffs.”
It was a fitting end to the fastest season from the fastest foursome in school history.
“To go out and win their 4x100 heat and miss the finals was still hard, but it wasn’t the same emotion as states because they had one more opportunity,” Murdock said. “They were relaxed and ready on Sunday.”