In a sport where four-tenths of a second can be the difference between first and third, every little detail must be accounted for. Every stance, hand motion, step and baton exchange must be studied. Every calorie must be counted and every minute of rest and training must be utilized to its fullest extent.
But when it came to the Big West Track and Field Championships and the men’s 4×400 relay team, senior Napoleon Greene and juniors Charles Jock, Chris Carson and Dominic Jester threw this precision and meticulousness out the window and went with whatever felt comfortable.
After an up-and-down season in the 4×400 competition, the relay team decided to switch things up for the biggest meet of the season. The relay team’s order was never consistent and always changing, but in the last meet of the season, Greene, who is comfortable starting off the blocks, decided to open up the race. Carson, who doesn’t care in what order he runs in, decided to run the second leg. Jester took the third leg because he would rather chase someone down and know where he stands in the race.
The anchor of the race was none other than Jock, who ranks first in the NCAA and second in the nation with an 800-meter time of one minute, 45.19 seconds.
“Coach has the final say when it comes to everything but everyone puts their input in,” Greene said. “Coach knows which legs we are more comfortable in. I have always run the first leg even in my sophomore and freshman year. That’s the one I’m most comfortable in. Jock is on the last leg if he needs to catch people.”
And that’s exactly what Jock did on May 14 during the Big West Track and Field Championship. After receiving the baton from Jester, Jock, who found himself in fourth, got on his horse and took off.
The last 200 meters of each leg is when the pain starts to set in. But Jock found his second wind and made his move on the outside.
“It comes from a drive to win, a drive to win for my teammates,” Jock said. “This is the only race where you get to run for other people. When we are out there, we are not running for ourselves but we are running for each other.”
Jock crossed the finish line with a time of 3 minutes, 28.10 seconds, finishing first because of the simple fact that UC Davis’s Thomas Phillips, who led for most of the way, began to tighten up toward the end of the race. When the third-year urban planning and regional and design major noticed this, he took advantage and applied pressure on the Aggies’ runner.
These four members of the relay team have put in hard work and made several sacrifices in order to reach the top.
“Every day that I wake up I have to make sure it’s all towards track,” Carson said.
They have given up fast food, soda, staying up late and even lunch, because practice starts at 1 p.m. and they need to have at least a two-hour gap between eating and practicing. If these sacrifices are not made, then it will show when it comes to the races and times.
“In track, if you don’t eat right and sleep right then you won’t run well,” Greene said. “In a sport where thousandths of a second matter, you have to do absolutely everything you can to be mentally and physically prepared.”
“Our daily routine revolves around track. We know what we can and cannot do. If we eat bad, it shows and if we don’t sleep enough, it shows,” Jester added.
For Greene, Jock, Carson and Jester, being a track athlete and making these sacrifices has become a lifestyle. But for them, there is no doubt that it’s all worth it.
“After winning the conference 4×400, we are never going to look back and say, ‘Man, I wish I would have eaten that pizza,’” Jock said.
For the relay team, this attention to detail has paid off. After winning the Big West Championship in the 4×400 relay, the team earned a berth to compete in the NCAA West Regional in Eugene Oregon. With a time of 3 minutes, 13.43 seconds, UCI’s relay team failed to advance any further.
Despite not being able to advance, the season has already been a blessing for Greene. Coming into the season, the bio major and San Jose native was not sure if he would ever run again. Two years ago, injuries took a toll on him. A blood clot was found in Greene’s leg and he had heart problems as well. But Greene persevered and managed to stay positive, returning for a memorable senior season at UCI.
“This year has been a blessing in one word,” Greene said. “Being team captain, trying to shepherd and usher in this new class and sharing my experiences with them because track has meant so much to me has been a great experience.”
Once Greene graduates in two weeks, he will be taking a year off to work and will be applying to graduate school.
As for Jock, Carson and Jester, who all have one year of eligibility left, a bigger challenge awaits. These three members will not only need to find a fourth to fill Greene’s shoes, but also they will attempt to be the first school to win the Big West 4×400 championship four years in a row.
“We are looking past that. We are looking towards the NCAA and how far we can go,” Carson said. “We already have the Big West.”