After taking three weeks off for the holidays, the Aftershock Distance Club jumped right back in the deep end as they prepared for their first indoor meet of the season and did not disappoint by claiming gold in two races and helping Arizona win the team scoring.
"The meet itself was a great experience for the group," said head coach Micah Swenson.
Running in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico, the girls took a small squad, five, to New Mexico for the Great Southwest Classic Indoor Invitational.
Not only was this the first meet of the season, it was the first time the girls were running on a banked 200-meter track, instead of the usual 400. This resulted in a faster run that Swenson compared to short-track speed skating race.
"This was our first time on a 200 meter, banked track," Swenson said. "There were a lot of adjustments with the tight corners and short straight aways. It made racing far more physical and challenging but more fun as well ... It resembled short-track speed skating in a lot of ways."
To prepare, Swenson had his team run on a mock 200-meter course, but could not simulate the bank.
Aftershock's day began with the 4X800-meter relay race. This was the first time the 4X800 was run at the Great Southwest and the girls' team consisted of Karen Arellano, Megan Goettl, Penny Fenn and Allyson Arellano.
Karen opened up the race for the club and had the lead as she made her first circle around the track. By the time she handed the baton to Goettl, Aftershock was already on its way to winning its first gold of the new year.
"At first I didn't ... I took off at an easy pace with the rest of the runners," Karen said. "During the first 150 meters, that's when I used my transition and I sped up a little bit because I thought the pace was going to slow and yeah, just took it from there."
If a gold medal was not good enough for the relay team, since it was the first time the Great Southwest ran the 4X800, the Aftershock 4X800 relay team now holds the record for fastest time in the 4X800 with a 10:21.11 finish, 19 seconds ahead of second place.
"I felt excited about it (the record) and I'm excited to go next year as well and hopefully set an even better record as well," Karen said.
Goettl kept things going for Aftershock, but was not able to grab a gold in the 800 and 1600-meter races. Finishing her races in 2:34.30 and 5:38.54 respectively, the times were good enough for fifth and sixth respectively.
Allyson was the double-gold winner for Aftershock. The freshman ran her 3200 in 11:46.71, which turned into about a 100-meter lead. Finishing just over a minute after Allyson, Fenn was the sixth runner to cross the finish line.
"I think I got out good and I didn't get trapped," Allyson said. "From the start I was leading already. I had a cramp the whole time and my heel was hurting the whole time. I had specific times I was trying to get, but I got off like halfway through ... I was trying to ignore it (the cramp) and I kept thinking that the faster I finish the faster I can get food because I was really hungry."
The strong showing and placing helped Aftershock contribute team points to Arizona so they could clinch the win. Of Arizona's 119.5 points, Aftershock tallied almost a quarter of them, 30.
"We had several first time experiences with this meet," Swenson said. "The track itself was a new experience altogether. The relay and Allyson's 3200-meter race were the first events we've won outside the state of Arizona. It's motivating for me as their coach to see these girls making a strong impact now at the regional level."
Despite the strong showing, Swenson and his team knew that the because of the break and the new track, the times would not be their best.
"Yeah, the times made a lot of sense," Swenson said. "They're in pretty good shape, but they haven't done a lot since early December, so I expected the times to be a lot slower ... The nice thing is we have meets the next six Saturday's, so these girls will get a chance to race their way back into shape."
But at the beginning of the season, they do not want their absolute best times. The track season begins with indoor track and field and is immediately followed by outdoor track. Because of this, Swenson wants his team to be peaking around May.
"The seasons really long and as a coach, I have to make sure I structure things so they're not peaking in March," Swenson said. "Really, our goal is to peak late May and into June so at some of those state championship meets, they can be running faster times than what they were running last year in June."