"Run your race"
Commonly called out as encouragement from spectators, it means to ignore what your competitors are doing and run within your own ability. This simple piece of advice was what it took for the women's 4x800 from Hutchinson CC to win a national title.
The team, composed entirely of Kansas High School alumni, was seeded into the faster of two heats at the NJCAA Championships at the Washburn Indoor Athletic Center in Topeka. Leading off, everything went as planned, with Gracie Lambert (Smoky Valley alum) leading off and Taylor Hoskinson (Haven alum) taking the 2nd leg.
Ellie Van Zelfden, formerly of Remington High School, took the baton in 5th place. On the 200-meter track, each leg runs 4 laps to cover 800 meters. However, after just three laps, the leading team handed off to the anchor leg. Then, one by one, the other 4 teams followed suit.
That was until 6th-place Hutchinson came through.
Anchor leg Serenity Larson (Dodge City HS alum) was ready to receive the handoff, but Van Zelfden, knowing she had only completed 3 laps, blew right past. One lap later, Larson took the baton, seemingly a lap behind everyone else. When everyone else had finished, Larson completed her final lap all alone. To the crowd, it looked like a blowout. Despite that, the clock read 9:42, a school record for the Dragons.
NJCAA Meet Results | Hutchinson CC Team Page
As one would think, there was a lot of confusion. After a number of protests, leaving more than a few unhappy coaches and heartbroken athletes, the other teams (Cloud County, Fort Scott, New Mexico JC, Mesa, Southeastern, and South Plains) were disqualified. Hutchinson CC, who ran faster than anyone in the other heat, was declared champions. The awareness of Ellie Van Zelfden to "Run her race" instead of following suit, proved to be the difference on a national stage.