The race for the Clarke Rams distance medley relay team started as soon as the bus rolled into the Massapequa High School parking lot Friday afternoon. The team, composed of Jada Atchison, Gabriella Martins, Shelby Frisa and Tristynn Mercedes had fallen asleep after a long bus ride and were only minutes away from their scheduled start time.
"I had a little bit of a panic attack," Frisa said jokingly. "But we dealt with it."
For track athletes, a change in or the absence of something in their routine -- especially something as important as a warm-up -- can throw times out of whack.
"It was really difficult," Mercedes said of the lack of a warm-up. "It's hard to move a cold muscle the way you want it to without it feeling tight. I jogged around in little circles right before I went off. It looked ridiculous, but I was trying to get in as much as a warm-up as I possibly could. I'm used to having a long warm-up. As they were running, I was doing strides in the last lane. I usually go out 15 or 20 minutes before my race and I had none of that today."
Whatever Mercedes and Clarke did, it was more than adequate. They ran the final three legs under little duress, winning the event in 13 minutes, 25.43 seconds at the Massapequa Chief Invitational track and field meet.
"It's a mental game," Frisa said of running without competition. "You really have to push through it because you're just running for yourself."
The race turned in Clarke's favor on the second leg, run by Martins. Beginning it virtually tied with her closest competitor, Martins jetted into the lead as soon as she took the handoff. That lead got larger and larger with each stride she took.
"I sprinted the whole leg," Martins said.
As she runs, Frisa's mind is blank. All she's focused on is churning her legs and moving as fast as she can toward the finish.
"I try to zone out and focus on what I want to do," she said. "What I want to do is come through that line and give my team a good position when I hand off the baton. My friends always say 'did you hear me cheering for you?' and I honestly don't. I'm so in the zone that you throw everything else out."
When you're in the zone, you don't even need a warm-up.