Kennedy High women’s track team making great strides

It’s 6:15 a.m. on a Monday in Central Richmond when Allana Reames gets out of bed, beginning her daily routine by applying ice and then heating pads to her legs. After that, she stretches her legs extensively, and, like any serious runner, does a jog around a few blocks before she goes back inside her house to get ready for school. She knows that later on today, she will need all the strength she can get.

While other sports such as football and basketball often get the most attention, the track and field team at Richmond’s Kennedy High School has been the most successful in improving each season and sending student athletes to higher education. So far, the Eagles track and field team has reached the California Interscholastic Federation state track and field championships for three straight years in the 110-meter hurdles, placing sixth the past two years.

Reames, a senior at Kennedy, wants to go to the University of San Francisco where she can continue her athletic career. Reames is the only senior on the team and sees it as an opportunity to take a leadership role with her other teammates. “It’s funny because I wasn’t planning to run this year, but Coach Carl talked me into it, said Reames. “I’m glad he did though.”

Under the guidance of Coach Carl Sumler, Reames began running as a sophomore and soon fell in love with the sport. When she wasn’t gearing up for the season, Reames would do gymnastics, ice skating and volleyball to stay active.

Danaya Giddens, a sprinter and junior at Kennedy, is part of the relay team with Reames and says there is a bond between runners. With only 12 girls on the team and practice six days a week, getting along is important. “We’re pretty close and because of that, we feed off each other’s energy,” said Giddens. “The track team is like my extended family, so we look out for each other.”

For a track athlete, staying healthy and limber is vital to performing during a race, and this is no exception for the girl’s track team at Kennedy. Before practice starts, Giddens and Reames watch videos of their previous races with their coach to help critique their technique and power.

Its 3:30 p.m. and Reames heads out to the field with the rest of her teammates to start practice. First, everyone takes two warm-up laps around the track. Then they break into drills: high knee lifts, butt kicks, and strides are done up and down the side of the track under the watchful eye of Coach Kenneth Walker II. Sumner focuses on developing the relay teams while Walker works with runner individually.  The shrill sound of whistle blowing can be heard as Walker walks by yelling “Knees up! Knees up!”

During practice, the runners do block work, a term for practicing accelerating at the start of the race, as well was power fazing their drive, which means striding at top speed for 60-70 meters and working on maintaining that speed.

Each race is different and requires specific preparation. For runners, this means more drills, using sleds and parachutes, and running on hills to build muscle. Sleds are weighted tools used for speed development that the runners pulls behind them using a harness similar to a sled dog’s. Parachutes are used to increase speed, stamina, and endurance. When the runner accelerates, the chute opens, providing resistance and forcing them to drive forward using their strength.

“Running in relays is like a chess game,” said Sumler, who is also the athletic director. “In a tenth of a second it’s over, so you have to practice perfect to be consistent.”

With a demanding practice regimen and the motivation to make it to the state championships, the team has worked hard to be successful. On February 25 at the De LaSalle/Super 7 Invitationals meet, the Kennedy women’s relay team finished in second place for the 4X100 (with a time of 50.50 seconds) and 4X200  relays (1:48.78), beating out powerhouse schools like Carondelet High School and going head to head with rival Hercules High School.

One of the most important meets for Reames will be this Saturday, at the Oakland Invitationals at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley where she will run individual 200 meter races and has the potential to be seen by scouters from UCLA, UC Berkeley, and other colleges.

Reames feels she has already done well this year. “In the one of meets right before state, I came out third out of the top eight runners, which was my best time of the season,” said Reames. “I tell myself to just relax and not to tense up. By the end of the season I surprised myself by winning.”

It’s 6:00 p.m. The lights turn on over the football field and it’s the end of practice. Sumler will routinely drive any students who need a ride home or who may live in troubled parts of town and are afraid to walk or take the bus home. During invitational track meets, vans are rented to bus the away team all across the Bay Area. When they have some down time between meets the coaches have taken the runners to the movies, college campus visits, and thrown barbecues.

Sumler says it’s good to see how much the girls improve from the beginning of the season to the end. “Their race times always drop,” he said. “It’s exciting too when they see their progress and realize that all that hard work pays off.”

“All we say is ‘Don’t be last,’” said Walker. “Five months later, they are medaling and I say ‘Look at you now!’ We let them know what to run and why they are running it.”

Reames packs up her running shoes and switches into some more comfortable red and white Nike sneakers. She sighs, thinking about the long day its been and the many more stressful days ahead. With a smile, she picks up the rest of her gear and heads over to Coach Carl’s van.

 

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