The wait was long and it was worth it. While Rachel Lannin and Halle Dolliver had at least gotten on the track the previous day for their individual races, for Samantha Back and Lillie Beach, their relay at the NSAA state track meet was the final Class C girls’ event of the two-day meet held May 19-20 in Omaha.
The Clippers’ 4x400-meter relay team ran faster than any in Malcolm history. Shaving nearly eight seconds off their two-week old school record, they finished fourth with a time of 4:05.88.
“Rachel set the tone for that race, for our team and all of the others,” Malcolm head coach Kip Arnold said. “She was in the lead for the entire first lap in lane seven.”
Each of the four Clippers ran a personal best split as Lannin handed off to Back who then delivered the baton to Beach, the only senior in the group.
“Lillie had an amazing two years in junior high track,” Arnold said. “Then, she lost out on her freshman season due to Covid and then battled through some injuries. She made it to state last year but missed the medal stand. To see that medal go around her neck was incredibly special.”
Beach delivered the baton to Dolliver who ran a 58.7 second final lap. The freshman nearly caught the anchor runner from Bishop Neumann – a team that bested the Clippers by more than four seconds at districts. This time, the final margin was just over a half-second.
“Halle muscled her way the entire lap,” Arnold said. “I’ve never seen her run so strong. She hunted down the team in third and didn’t give the girl behind her a chance to catch her.”
While the relay was the only medal-winning performance of the weekend, three athletes achieved personal bests in their individual competitions.
Dolliver broke her own school record with a 400-meter dash of 1:00.36 as she missed qualifying for finals by .39 seconds.
“That shows how strong that field was,” Arnold said. “In the grand scheme of things, her missing finals kept her fresh for the relay. So it may have been a blessing in disguise.”
Nate Swenson continued to show improvement as the junior turned in a personal best 2:07.4 performance in the 800-meter run.
“Every move matters in that race,” Arnold said. “Nate is still learning the best strategy for running the 800. We have a feeling that he’s going to do amazing things next year.”
Jessica Sandell reached new heights in the pole vault competition. The sophomore cleared 9-0 for the first time in her career, finishing about six inches shy of a medal.
“Jessica peaked in the biggest moment,” Arnold said. “She still has two more years and we think she has the potential to earn a state medal or two in that time span. She works hard in the off-season. She’s coachable and eager to improve.”
In addition to Beach, four other Malcolm seniors finished off their careers at state. Alanea Babb – a two-time qualifier – went 32-3.75 in the triple jump, improving on her 2022 state meet performance. Drew Johnson was two inches better than last year as he cleared 6-2 in high jump.
In his first appearance at state, Lucas Christensen went 41-0 in triple jump. Jonathan Cook finished out his career with a 23.51 finish in the 200-meter dash.
“We had a great group of seniors that worked hard and led by example,” Arnold said. “We hope the lessons our younger kids gained from them as well as the experience of attending the state meet gives them something on which to build.”
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