Without question, the top female 4x400 team in the state ran for Columbia High School this season. The quartet of TyVonna Johnson, Kelsey Jackson, Kayaan Richards and Brittany Jackson took first place in every meet this spring, right on through the Meet of Champions. In just a few days, they’ll try to keep the winning streak going at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, NC, from June 18 - 20.
What’s scariest about this team is not that they haven’t lost a high school event since the indoor season, it’s not that they have the fastest sprint medley time in the nation and it’s not that they have a calm confidence, some may call it swagger, about them.
What’s scariest is that they are all coming back next season and have nothing but smashing state records and winning state championships on their minds. With these four girls returning for another season, Columbia’s chances of winning a team state championship have to be considered at least formidable, if not favorable.
“I think it’s all the hard work that we’ve been doing and we’ve been confident with ourselves, knowing that we have a great team this year,” Richards said. “It’s no surprise that we’re undefeated.”
Last season, the girls relay team did not crack the top 10 at the Meet of Champions and took fourth place at the sectionals, running a 4:07. The days of any four minute times are long gone for the girls now, with all of them running the quarter mile in 57 seconds or less. These sudden changes can happen in high school, with teenagers maturing at different speeds and times, but to go from non-factor to one of the best relay teams in the country is quite an accomplishment.
“We’re all together as a team way more, I think that’s making us a better team,” said Kelsey Jackson. “We practice together a lot more and go on runs. I think it’s really good for a 4x400 team to be together.”
What led to this dramatic turnaround was a strength program in the summer last year and a lot of running. The girls also gave some credit to Head Coach Lisa Morgan.
“All of these hard practices she has us doing. She’s been really motivating,” Kelsey Jackson said. “At first over the summer, I didn’t think we could do it. We weren’t anywhere near this level last year.”
This year the girls track team as a whole came up short at the sectionals and group championships, despite wins from the relay team, a disappointment that still lingers in the backs of their minds. But these four girls make up the core of what Columbia will have on the track next season, meaning that all of the short distance running events (not the one or two mile) will be Columbia’s to lose.
At the 100 and 200, Richards is the star, winning the section in the 100 and finishing second in the 200. Johnson won the section in the 400 and finished second in the 800, Kelsey Jackson finished fifth in the 800 and in the 400. Perhaps the most valuable runner on the team is Brittany Jackson who does the high jump, the 800, and 400 meter hurdles. This season, she took third in the section in the hurdles and won the 800 and high jump events.
These girls are only going to get faster. All they can hope for now is that their success rubs off on the rest of the team, so they can get points in other events. They likely won’t need much. Up until sectionals, the girls track team had won every meet by a landslide. If they get any scoring in the throwing events, look out. Coach Morgan said that nothing is guaranteed, and that anyone can lose a race on a given day, but it seems as though the girls will come back as strong as ever next season and extremely hungry.
“I think since we’re one of the top contenders, now in the nation, of course people get a little scared,” Brittany Jackson said. “They see Columbia and they know we’re good competition. That’s a good thing on our part, because we don’t fear anybody.”
When you have one loss every three months, the goals change a little bit. They have their eyes set on a good performance at nationals and breaking the 4x400 school record (3:44), which is held by a team on which Coach Morgan ran for, and to break the state record (3:43). The girls ran a 3:47.94 at the Meet of Champions this year. If each girl cuts one second from their time (much harder than it sounds) they would break the school record and come close to the state record.
As far as nationals go, Richards said that she expects the team to win the sprint medley, being that they have the top time in the country in the event, and for the girls to take a top three spot in the 4x400.
“I know we can win, but it will be some work,” Richards said.
When they aren’t practicing, they love to hang out together, the girls said.
“We travel in packs,” Johnson said. “If there’s one of us, there’s all of us. When we say we’re a team, we really are a team.”