Del Oro relays are all for run

Senior Eggert sparks Eagles to the brink of state in two relays
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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Samantha Eggert’s transformation into a dominant force in the 400-meter dash was a quiet one. The Del Oro High sprinter had reluctantly started running a leg of the 4x400 relay late in her sophomore season. “Her junior year, she really committed to being a part of that team,” said Jake Hardy, the Golden Eagles’ head coach. The only senior on Del Oro’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams continued a stellar season Thursday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet, qualifying for tonight’s finals in both relays and the open 400. “It’s really amazing that she didn’t even see herself as a Masters runner two years ago and now she’s qualified in all three events,” Hardy said. Eggert, who never ran competitively before high school, joined the team as a 100-200 sprinter. “She came in and she was afraid of running,” Hardy said. “She figured, ‘I’ll do the sprints because it looks like they don’t work as hard and I’m pretty fast already.’” As Eggert started to embrace her role with the 4x400 team, Hardy began to increase her mileage and repetition in practice. “I started training her as a 400 runner without really telling her what I was doing,” Hardy said. “Her 100 and 200 times dropped but her 400 splits plummeted.” As Eggert continued running the short sprints, Hardy recognized her potential in the open 400. “I said, ‘Sam, I think you could break the school record in the 400,’” Hardy said. Eggert’s individual emergence in the 400 is remarkable considering she didn’t even try the event until a dual meet at Nevada Union a few weeks ago. She finished the race in 1 minute, 0.4 seconds, but didn’t run it again until the week before the Sierra Foothill League championships. Hardy convinced Eggert to drop either the open 100 or 200 in favor of the 400. She replaced the 100 and broke a minute in the 400 at the SFL trials. Two days later at the finals, she ran a personal-best 58.16, proving Hardy right by smashing Del Oro’s 31-year-old record of 58.9. “I love the 400,” Eggert said. “In the 100 you can only get so good and then it’s just your natural speed, but you have all the adrenaline in the 400. It’s that last 75 yards where you can’t feel your legs. It’s the best race.” Del Oro’s 4x400 team of Eggert, junior Maureen Watkins, sophomore Jamie Schumacher and junior Kelsey Seaman ran 4:03.38 in Thursday’s qualifier to snag the section’s seventh spot. “We were running to qualify today,” Eggert said Thursday. “Tomorrow is the meet of our lives. This could essentially be my last high school track meet. It’s a little nerve-racking.” Eggert, who anchored both relays last year and most of this season, ran the opening leg of the 4x400 qualifier. “It’s because I need someone right there in front of me,” she said. “I work a lot better with somebody right there in front of me — it gives me that extra push to want to pass her.” The Eagles’ 4x100 team, which ran a 49.59 in its qualifier, recently took shape after injuries early in the spring resulted in a constant shifting of runners and their respective legs on the relay. The team of Eggert, Watkins, junior Kylie Skupic and sophomore Kyndal Moss finally materialized to shatter a school record. “It’s been so awesome,” Eggert said. “It’s the best relay team that I’ve ever been on. Pulling it together and actually having a steady relay team has really helped us.” Eggert’s teammates rely on their captain as much as she relies on them. “She’s always the one getting us together, warmed up and in our running zone,” Schumacher said. “She’s obviously an amazing runner. We’re always striving to do better because of Sam encouraging us all the time.” Eggert and a male teammate lead stretches daily. “They basically lead 120 athletes through team warm-ups,” Hardy said. “The other kids respect them. They keep them focused.” The Eagles will need plenty of focus when they return to Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium for the finals tonight. Del Oro’s 4x100 team is only a second-and-a-half off the state at-large qualifying mark. “In the 4x1 anything can happen,” Hardy said. “Our PR puts us about fourth- or fifth-best in the section. If we can race where we believe we can race, we can do it.” Eggert and her relay mates are equally optimistic about their chances in the 4x400. “We can definitely make it to state if every one of us gives it all we’ve got,” Schumacher said. “I know we will, because our whole heat is going to be the fastest girls around. When we have good competition we all run well.” Del Oro’s 4x400 boys team also snagged a spot in today’s finals. Sophomore Kenny Andri, juniors Matt Lozancich and Bryce Pratt and senior Robert Bezaire qualified with a personal-best 3:26.25. Eggert plans to run at the University of San Francisco next year. She’ll leave the foothills with the same attitude that enabled her to become a star on the local track. “Open 400, relays, whatever my coach wants me to train for, I’ll do,” she said. “If there’s one thing I learned, you’ve got to trust your coaches.” Said Hardy: “I’m really excited about it, because she’s just learning how to run.”