Teamwork in track and field is an interesting concept. While team concepts certainly exist for all programs, things like a group of individuals working for the same goal while providing one another with mutual support, are rare in a sport is fueled by individual accomplishments. However, there is one exception when individual track efforts meet traditional concepts of teamwork -- a relay race.
For the past two seasons, the University of Oklahoma men have left the Big 12 Indoor Championships as distance medley relay champions. This year’s squad of Brandon Doughty, Alex Deir, Allen Eke and Ethan Baker won the title in Ames, Iowa, with a time 9:45.32.
“Anytime you are in a relay, you have to think about your teammates,” explained Deir, who was competing in his first Big 12 meet. “I wanted to put them in the best position to do what they could do to win. You want to do well for them, especially when you are doing it with your friends, and you want to try to help them do well.”
Sooner distance events coach Jason Dunn points out that the relay experience is a special one because of the group effort that it requires.
“Teamwork is very much involved,” Dunn said. “The guys get really excited for it and it is always nice to have a team aspect, especially with the young team that we have. I think that a relay is a good time to draw people together, for everyone to get excited about the direction we are heading.
“We wanted to have success early in the event because it naturally brings on camaraderie because they are working together. It is a very fun event.”
Baker, who is the lone sprinter of the group and the only returning runner from last year’s conference championship relay, points out that being successful in a relay race is much more than just having talented runners competing.
“Trust is definitely a factor,” the junior from Oklahoma City explained. “The relay is one of the few team situations that you get into, track-wise. In everything else, you are relying on yourself and yourself only. When you are in a relay, you realize that you can lean on the other guys and they can lean on you.”
Baker also added how meaningful this year’s championship was compared to last year’s due to his increased role.
“Last year was a little bit different just because I was out there with some older and very fast people who really carried us,” Baker said. “This year was honestly cooler because I had a bigger role and, as younger guys, we had to come together and do really well in order to win. It was a complete group effort”
Eke, who also finished third in the 800-meter run at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, described how the win was a by-product of being a team on a mission.
“I think it was just about having people who want to run and about having people who want to get after it and win,” Eke said. “Our goal was to go out and win a Big 12 Championship. That was a big accomplishment for the team and for us.
“We all worked very hard,” Eke continued. “Every workout we really got after it. I feel like we did everything right and I thought we were well prepared for the race.”
Doughty, who ran the final leg in the relay for the Sooners, called the feeling of crossing the finish line first as the result of a collective effort “sweet.
“It felt incredible,” the junior explained. “There is not much better than winning a championship in the Big 12, especially with three guys who are your best friends. I knew they were going to get the baton to me in great position, and they gave it to me in first, so I just had to do my job and finish the race.
“It means a lot more to share something with a team. A Big 12 Championship as a team is much better than an individual championship.”
As the track and field program sets its sights on outdoor season, where there is no DMR, members of the Big 12 Championship relay team look to carry that confidence and success, individually and as part of a group, into the outdoor season, which starts for the Sooners on March 21, at the Baldy Castillo Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.
By Andrew McCracken