As members of the Lady Demons track team’s senior class gear up for the final and most important test of their high school careers, one truth rings true in their minds.
Hard work pays off.
All the nights staying after practice, countless hours learning from coaches and years of perfecting their craft have delivered worthwhile results in 2013, with Aja Calvin, Alexa Goldsberry, Amberleigh Rushin and Kaitlyn Wright punching their tickets to compete in this weekend’s state tournament.
“It’s really exciting, especially because it is our senior year,” Rushin said. “There’s been some long hours, many times we stayed practicing longer than we needed to and that played a big part in us making it to state.”
When the track teams begin their campaigns to take home a state title Friday, the four seniors know the meet will serve as their final stand, a chance to win one more time while wearing the Duncan red.
“It’s our last meet ever with Duncan, so it being the last one, it’s our shining moment,” Goldsberry said. “We’re going to give it everything we have and hope for the best.”
As state looms, experience has taught these seniors that most of these battles are won and lost in the events’ mental components.
“The mental part of it is critical because it’s a very mental game,” Rushin said. “We worked hard at it last year but we put forth so much more effort this year because it’s senior year, it’s our last chance.”
For the Lady Demons, reaching this point was part of the plan all along. When asked by their coaches at the start of the season what their goals were, all four responded the same way.
“At the beginning of the year, state was the goal for all of us,” Wright said. “Reaching this point is rewarding, but we know there’s still one last challenge. We’re going in it to win it.”
It’s almost impossible to reach a state tournament without significant preparation, as was the case in the seniors’ career paths.
While she had already been in track, Wright didn’t start pole vaulting until her sophomore year, a transition she said took a lot of effort. Two years later, she’s a regional champion.
“I was new to it and was just jumping right in,” Wright said. “It was hard, just the techniques on how to get over the bar and use to body to position yourself correctly. It’s body control. Balance, knowing timings, it just takes practice to get the timing down.
Calvin doesn’t hesistate to say when she saw that hard work paid off.
“Sophomore year, Altus Tournament,” Calvin said with a smile.
Calvin’s goals leading into the year included reaching more than 100 feet in the discus throw. When she took fourth at regionals, she beat that number by four. Calvin will also compete in the shot put after taking fifth at the regional meet.
This is the third time around at state for Goldsberry, but the stakes have been raised for the senior in 2013.
“I went to state my sophomore and junior year, so I know what to expect but knowing I have a chance to place high...It’s not scary, it’s just different this time,” she said.
It only took one tournament for Goldsberry to know that her senior year would see a new level of success.
“Last year, coach [Tim] Bubin had set a goal for me throwing 110 feet, and I threw 109 here in Duncan in the very last tournament. So coming back my senior year, I had to meet that, and the very first meet I threw 112.”
Goldsberry hasn’t looked back, breaking her own record at the Altus and OU Tournaments, and throwing 119 feet and seven inches at regionals, good for third place. She will also compete in the shot put Friday, finishing right behind Calvin in sixth place at the regional meet.
Rushin, who enters state as a regional champion in the high jump, also witnessed her game improve most at the start of her final year.
“Definitely from last year to this year, that was the biggest period of growth,” Rushin said. “I mean yes, in how we performed, but mindset too.”
With Duncan’s seniors graduating in just 14 days, the emotions are bitter sweet for the group as they embark on their last trip together. Each member of the class agreed that while parting ways will not be easy, the future is bright.
While their track careers in Duncan may have concluded, each senior plans to continue competing beyond high school.