April 5, 2018
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word –
THE FLATS — A fun part of college athletics is creating memories.
Erasing them can also be fun.
Sometimes the two aspects come together. When they do, it can create something more than fun. It can be downright historic.
That’s what happened Saturday morning at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla., in the women’s 4×100 shuttle hurdles relay.
The result was Georgia Tech’s team of junior Jeanine Williams and seniors Kenya Collins, Raven Stewart and Marinice Bauman not only blowing away the field — they won the race by nearly 1.7 seconds — in a time of 53:16, but the performance, which earned them ACC Co-Performers of the Week, was also the ninth-fastest in NCAA history and a school-record by more than half a second.
“Honestly, I don’t think it has hit me yet. I feel like it was just another run that we did,” said Williams, the ACC indoor champion in the 60m hurdles. “It hasn’t really hit me that we’ve made history. I think we went in just trying to have fun and hoping to win. I don’t think we had the school record on our mind. But I always feel like once you have fun, then other things will come into play. That’s what we did, we had fun.”
“It’s an amazing feeling, for sure,” said Stewart, who ran the third leg. “We went into the race wanting to win this year because we got second last year. It was a little disappointing. So the whole time we were training for this we were like, ‘We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win.’ Then we crossed the line and (sprints/hurdles) coach (Adriane) Butler told us it was a school-record. We all were just excited, jumping up and down. It’s definitely an amazing feeling because the girls who were holding the record before us were all great hurdlers. Knowing that we’re just as fast as them, it’s a really great feeling. I knew we were trying to win and we were capable of getting the record but I didn’t know that it was going to be like that and by that much. It was really cool.”
The unit was steely, cold in its determination to erase the memory of the 2017 Florida Relays, the first time they ran the race – a second-place finish by 0.78, at 54.60.
“We’ve been talking about it since last year,” said Collins, who ran the second leg. “With the recent practices with touchdown times, we started figuring that if we just do what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks, we’ll have a really good chance of breaking the school record.”
Assistant coach Nat Page made one slight tweak with the lineup from 2017, switching Williams and Collins.
“There are a lot of factors in a shuttle hurdle,” said Butler. “They run down and back so, if it’s windy, someone gets a tail wind and someone else gets a head wind. I think coach Page just looked at all the information and thought that order put us in the best place to do what we were capable of doing last year. We just came up a little short.”
It was windy and Williams and Collins were on the same page as coach Page.
“Jeanine and I both have really good starts. Coach Page said he wanted to switch both of our legs. I knew that she would get us out to a good pace,” said Collins. “So I just knew that I had to maximize my start times 10 to keep the momentum that she had coming down the track going back for Raven and then to Nicey [Bauman].”
“I don’t think it was much of a difference,” said Williams. “Last year we didn’t really know the mechanics of the relay. I think going first this year made much of a difference because it’s just running.
“I feel like chemistry has a lot to play with it,” she added. “If we were not a close-knit group it wouldn’t have went as smoothly as it did but we’re all friendly. We interact all the time, we talk to each other, we play around. So it works.”
Bauman credits the Jackets’ approach leading up to the race.
“I think, as far as what made the difference this year, it wasn’t necessarily the order but just the work and the commitment that we know that we’ve each put in and the camaraderie that we’ve gained in this last year,” said Bauman, the relays anchor. “This year we’ve come together and really motivated each other on the track. We know we’re working really hard. That’s where our confidence came from.”
That confidence showed as Williams got separation by the third of the 10 hurdles then Collins, Stewart and Bauman ran their legs to perfection. The rest is history. School history.
The time shattered the Yellow Jackets’ previous mark set back in 2005 by the team of Shantia Moss, Fatmata Fofanah, Adriane Lapsley, and Chaunte Howard. The final two runners are better known as Adriane Butler – yes, that Adriane Butler – and Chaunte Lowe, a 2015 inductee into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame and four-time Olympian, recently awarded an Olympic bronze medal for the 2000 Sydney Games.
That legendary foursome, which had obliterated the previous mark of 55.11 set in 2001 by the team of Mishanta Reyes, Alisha McClinton, Nikole Jeffery, Tosan Osaigbovo at the 2005 Penn Relays, combined for 15 all-America nominations, six national championships, and 15 ACC championships.
The luster of the former record-holders is not lost on the new record-holders.
“I actually looked at the record in the hotel room before we ran and so I did see the names. It was a little bit intimidating,” said Bauman, with a laugh. “But ultimately I trust these girls with my life. I see them train. I know the work that they put in and so, if they were going to have clean races, so was I. I knew that if we all put it together we could get something really special. I never expected that I would be in the record books, let alone surpass some of the greatest athletes that we’ve had come through Tech but I think that’s a testament to our program and how we’re stepping up and striving to be better.”
“When I came into college, I found looking at the times and the school records as constant motivation, something that I always wanted to achieve but knew that I had to work real hard to do,” said Collins. “That was something that was always in the back of my head like when I’m tired or when I don’t feel like going to weights, just knowing what the end goal is. One of my goals was breaking school records. So I can cross that off my senior list. It’s good to get that record out of there because they’ve had some really good hurdlers. It’s a confidence booster. They had national-class, world-class hurdlers that ran that time and we broke that time. That tells us something about ourselves.”
Butler’s seen that “something” and feels it makes their record even more rewarding.
“I think it probably means more that it was this group because I feel like for a while we’ve kind of felt like underdogs or under-represented,” she said. “They don’t care. They get it done anyway. I’m glad that they have something to hang their hat on. They work really hard, they’re really talented. I see them every day. I see them when no one’s looking and they’re in the training room early and at practice late and doing all those extra things.
“A lot of times people think, ‘Oh you’re just good because you’re good,’ and they don’t see all the steps along the way,” she added. “So the personal pride for me is that I know they’ve been working every day to get outcomes like this. I doesn’t just happen. I remember how excited I was that I was going to be a part of Georgia Tech history and how amazing it felt to be able to do that with the women I practiced with every day and share that. Now to be able to see that happening for the women that I coach is amazing.”
The team is proud to share the glory with her.
“She was like, ‘I’m a little jealous but I’m happy for you guys,’” said Stewart. “We were holding up No. 1’s in the picture. She was like, ‘I guess I can hold up a No. 2 since I have the second-fastest time.’ We know she was special when she was here. It’s a great feeling having her be one of the coaches of the relay and her actually being part of the team that had the record before us.”
The relay has got the team thinking of bigger things, individually.
“We need to start taking over the record books now,” said Williams. “The records have been there for a while. I appreciate them, but now the younger generation, we’ve got to set more records. Show that we actually did something while we were here, too.”
Next year, Williams will be the only team member still here, as Collins, Stewart and Bauman graduate. So defending the title is on her. She’s not concerned.
“We have some good freshmen coming in and I know Jeanine will take them under her wing and they definitely have a great coach,” said Collins. “I don’t feel like it would be something that they can’t do.”
“It might be a little rough but I’ll do it. It’ll be fine,” she said. “They’ll have to get through conditioning but after that we should be good.”