Edison senior Sterling Dozier might have been able to ease up during the final leg of the 4x100 relay and save energy for upcoming races at the Leslie Sherman Memorial Invitation track meet at West Springfield on April 1, but his team had a mission.
"There's a lot of teams going out to win the region and state," he said. "It's a challenge we want to take."
With more than enough space to secure a victory at the final baton handoff from Justin Jeter, Dozier dashed away from the Robinson relay team’s runner and followed through to the finish line, winning the event with a time of 44.55.
"I just clinched the baton tight," he said. "I used my speed to try and finish strong."
Message sent and received, but the 4x100 team's goal of making a name for itself wasn't just for teams in the Northern Region — the runners wanted to impress their coaches.
"Our coaches were a little bit skeptical about how this relay might run," Dozier said.
The group of Dozier, Jeter, Tarikh Cooper and Jamison Hart had never run as a 4x100 relay for the Eagles. The team members said they were sure they could run fast, they just didn't know it would happen this soon.
"We were just thrown together," Cooper said. "We've been running together for a long time, but we've never run this relay as a team."
It also didn't help that Hart, who is normally the second leg of a relay team, had to take set the pace as the team's first runner.
"Usually in relays, I'm not the first leg," Hart said.
With limited time to adjust to his new role, Hart focused on creating a burst of speed off the starting block similar to how he creates momentum as the second runner in other relays.
"Before the race, I was just practicing and practicing to keep my head down and get out strong and drive my knees," he said.
After successfully opening the relay, Hart said he could grow into the role, but recognized its differences from other positions.
"It's harder to be the first leg," he said. "The third and fourth legs, you have time to get out ahead, but in the first you have to start strong."
While Dozier's final 100-meter sprint captured first, Cooper's run as second leg helped create some much needed distance from the Robinson and West Potomac teams
"I knew what I had to do," Cooper said. "When I got the baton, I just moved. With the speed I had when I got the baton, I knew we could get out ahead of everyone."
With plenty of space and the lead, Jeter said he was able fixate on the sometimes tricky baton handoff.
"My first instinct was to stay focused," Jeter said. "I didn't want to drop that baton or mess up the handoff."
Jeter grabbed the baton from Cooper and maintained the lead, allowing Dozier to seal the victory.
With a record of 1-0 as a relay team, Dozier said the group is shifting its focus on improving its time throughout the season.
"It's going to be a challenge," he said.
The boys weren't the only standouts at the meet.
Edison also recorded a top finish from Myah Hicks, who finished first in the girls' 1,600-meter race with a time of 5:08.33.
Kristina Brown took first in the girls' triple jump. Boys' 4x100-meter relay member Justin Jeter finished first in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 40.77. George Owino finished first in the boys' triple jump.
Because of spring break, not every team at the Leslie Sherman Memorial Invitational could field their whole team, but West Springfield head track coach Chris Pellegrini said he uses the meet to set goals regardless of who is missing.
"It's difficult because this meet is during spring break," he said. "But this is a great chance to see where everyone is."
Even with teams missing key runners, Pellegrini said the meet signaled early signs of success for the Spartans.
"We've had about a half-dozen personal records today," he said. "I'm really happy with where we are right now."
Junior James Walker is one of the Spartans who earned a personal record. Walker finished eighth in the long jump with a score of 18-feet, 10.50-inches.
"This was my first time breaking 18 feet," he said. "I haven't done it in practice, but I thought I could break it. It was a nice surprise."