Imagine running a race, and just after you take off, an opponent spikes you in the back of the ankle, causing you to lose your stride and your heel to pop out of your shoe.
Junior Alyson McGonigle and her teammates not only won this race, but helped set a record in it, despite having half a foot in her shoe.
McGonigle, seniors Stephanie Paradis and Lydia Morton and sophomore Taylor Clevinger composed one of two successful Richmond women’s track relay teams at the Atlantic 10 Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday and Saturday at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, R.I.
McGonigle, Paradis, Morton and Clevinger ran the women’s 4-x-800-meter relay in an A-10 record time of 9 minutes, 3.71 seconds on Saturday, beating the former record holder and the second-place Rhode Island team by about four seconds.
And if McGonigle had run with both shoes fully on, the Spiders might have won by even more time.
When McGonigle was stepped on, she said: “I was trying to get my shoe back on for the first two laps but was unable to, so I had to change my gait and try to just keep it on and keep running.”
As McGonigle passed her baton to Paradis, the Spiders relay team was in second place, just a few seconds behind the Rhode Island team.
“I was able to come back a lot in my last lap,” McGonigle said. “Steph closed the gap, and so did Lydia. Taylor came up on the Rhode Island runner and was able to take the lead on the last lap.”
Clevinger said that when Morton had passed her the baton, she had been almost equal with the Rhode Island anchor, which had been her favorite moment of the meet.
“It was exciting just having everyone on the team together, cheering,” Clevinger said, “but it was even more exciting to run the 4-x-800 and have the motivation to win it for the team. It was a special win for McGonigle, Morton, and me, because we trained together all year for this.”
Paradis and McGonigle also ran the first and third legs of the women’s distance medley relay, which, McGonigle said, had gone in a leg order of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. Freshman Jade Gregory and junior Jill Prentice ran the second and fourth legs for the Spiders, who defended their A-10 record from last year’s championships meet with a winning time of 11:42.22, nine seconds faster than second-place Duquesne.
“When I got the baton in the DMR, we were in first,” McGonigle said, “but I let the Temple runner get the lead, because she kicks out hard, but I caught her with about 150 meters left on my leg; we were in first when I handed off.
“Being part of that relay to maintain that spot atop the conference we had last year was a huge honor.”
Having great senior leadership in Morton and Paradis, the only Spider to run in both relays last year and this year, has been crucial to maintaining the team’s success, McGonigle and Clevinger said.
“They’ve been great models and helped with any questions and provided motivation,” Clevinger said. “They don’t make me feel younger, but like an equal part of one team that is ready to get the job done.”
McGonigle and Clevinger also won individual races. McGonigle ran the fastest qualifying time in the women’s 800 meter and then improved her time by more than a second in the final heat, to 2:13.01.
“I entered with the best time of the season,” McGonigle said. “But it can all change in the preliminaries, I just had to hold my spot — I do better letting other people work off me than working off other people, because I know if I’m crossing first.”
Clevinger and Morton finished with the second and third fastest qualifying times in the women’s 1,000 meter, but Clevinger improved her time by more than three seconds to finish first in the final, at 2:52.06, while Morton finished fifth.
In the only other relays, the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay and the men’s distance medley relay, the Spiders finished seventh and fifth. Freshman Justin Keefe was the sole bright spot for the men’s team in its final indoor conference championships, having run the third spot in the relay and qualified for the men’s 1000-meter final in sixth place. The men finished twelfth of 12 teams.
The women finished fifth of 14 teams, with 72 points, 17 behind second-place Dayton. Many of those points came from close losses: Senior Meghan Hart finished second in the 800-meter portion of the women’s pentathlon at 2:25.34, less than two seconds behind the winner. Gregory finished second in the women’s 500 meter at 1:15.13, less than four seconds after Charlotte sophomore T’Sheila Mungo had beaten the A-10 record she had established last year. And Prentice finished third in the women’s 3,000 meter, with a time of 9:52.86, less than six seconds after the winner.
After the meet, one of McGonigle’s goals was to stay atop the conference in relays during the next indoor season, she said.
“But we want to transition our indoor success to outdoor,” McGonigle said. “I’ll run the 4-x-800 and open 800 meter for outdoor, but both will be wider fields of competitors. I’m excited about where our training is now, with Lydia and Taylor and I pushing each other, and if we continue that into the outdoor season, we have a chance to excel again.”
Clevinger has goals of improving her 800-meter time to 2:10 or better.
McGonigle and Clevinger gave credit to their coaches for their success, especially John Molz, the assistant coach who has worked with both to improve as a mid-distance unit, and all the coaches who have taken part in implementing new weightlifting techniques and motivating the runners to victories, Clevinger said.
Though the team will compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., March 8 and 9, the runners are more concerned with the start of the outdoor season.
“As a team, we’re excited for where we’re going to go with outdoor,” McGonigle said. “Distance, sprint, mid-distance, jumps — you name it; each race gets more thrilling for us.” the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay and the men’s distance medley relay, the Spiders finished seventh and fifth. Freshman Justin Keefe was the sole bright spot for the men’s team in its final indoor conference championships, having run the third spot in the relay and qualified for the men’s 1000-meter final in sixth place. The men finished twelfth of 12 teams.
Contact reporter Zach Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org