Track meet tension — and joy

Saguaro's Katie Drake (center) takes the baton from teammate Katie Alhadeff for the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay at Friday's Scottsdale City track meet. The team from Chaparral (left) is about to make the exchange while a runner from Desert Mountain (right) awaits her teammate.

Watching a high school track meet in the early evening this time of year is a relaxing and stress-free activity — unless your child is competing in the meet.  On Friday night, I went over to Chaparral High School to watch the Scottsdale City Track Meet, which is held annually for the five Scottsdale Unified School District Schools — Arcadia, Chaparral, Coronado, Desert Mountain and Saguaro.

In particular, I wanted to see Saguaro’s Katie Drake run the 100-, 200- and 400- meter races and the 4×100 relay. Katie is the daughter of Raising Arizona Kids Senior Account Executive Susie Drake and her husband, Scott.

Katie, now a junior, has been running since she was 7 years old.  “I started running because my mom thought I would like it,” Katie said Friday, “and then I grew to love it.”

Katie’s parents made their best effort to remain calm during the meet, but whenever Katie was on the track that facade fell away. There were emotional ups and downs as Katie finished second in the 100 meters, ran the winning anchor leg in the 4×100 relay (after overcoming a difficult baton exchange) and then ran out of gas in the 400 meters, where she had the lead in the last 100 meters but finished fourth.

Katie had plenty of gas left for her last race, however, as she finished first with a time of 27:39. As Katie crossed the finished line, Susie thrust her arms in the air with joy and quickly walked down the stands to congratulate her daughter.

After the last race, I asked Katie what it was like to run four races in a period of about two hours, including running the 400 meters within 10 minutes of finishing the 4×100 relay. “It was horrible!” Katie said while beaming and holding her first place medal. As you can see from the photo I took a moment later, it couldn’t have been too bad.

Katie Drake flanked by her parents, Susie and Scott, after winning the 200 meters .

As I started to leave the meet, I came upon Mary K. Reinhart, who was there to watch her daughter Emily, a Chaparral sophomore, compete in the last event of the evening: the girls’ pole vault. A year ago, Mary K. wrote in this blog about watching Emily try a new sport as a freshman.

“Emily is still working on getting over the bar in competition,” Mary K. wrote at that time. As we waited for the pole vault to begin, Mary K. wondered aloud whether here attendance this evening was “bad luck” for Emily. “Her event is usually the first one of the meet, so I never get to see it because of work,” said Mary K., who is one of the top political reporters in the state at The Arizona Republic.

As everyone in the crowd, and indeed many of the other competitors of the five schools, watched the final event of the evening, Emily proved that her mom’s attendance did not spell doom for her. A lot had happened in the past year. Emily may have been “still working on getting over the bar in competition” a year ago, but on this evening she won the Scottsdale City meet.

“Wow,” said her mom quietly. “Wow.” — Dan Barr

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