Joyce, Sanford, Young compete in special shuttle hurdle relay

Dayen Joyce (10) stepped onto the starting block, adjusted his footing, and looked down the straightaway. For the first time in Joyce’s track career, his own teammate, Steven Young (12), was running toward him at full speed.

Westview was competing in a team of four in the shuttle hurdle relays, which required two runners in two track lanes next to each other.

Young was in the lane next to Joyce’s, and immediately after Young cleared his third-to-last hurdle, Joyce got set on his block. He waited with his head facing the ground until he heard Young sprint past the cone in the lane to his left and shout “Go!”

As the last leg of the relay, Joyce sprinted down the straightaway toward the hurdles, widening the lead between him and the other teams, until he passed the cone at the end of the straightaway, winning his relay team first place in their heat.

At the Falcon Relays, hosted by Torrey Pines High School, March 17, Westview competed in the shuttle hurdle relays for the first time in three years. The boys team won first and the girls won third in their respective divisions.

The shuttle hurdle relay is a race competed in teams of four, with two runners on one side of the track and two on the other side. The first runner hurdles 110 meters and has to pass the cone at the end of the straightaway before the second runner can run in the opposite direction. This continues as the runners go back and forth across the track until all four of them have run.

Shuttle hurdle relays are not a regular CIF track event, but they are considered a special event that has to be run at an invitational with a premade schedule, bigger lanes, and more time to compete in the relay.

During the regular season, Westview only gets the opportunity to compete in shuttle hurdles in the one big relay meet of the year, the Falcon Relays.

In the past, Westview never had enough runners to fill two relay teams, due to absences and injuries.

This year, however, the hurdles team had more than enough people willing to race in the shuttle hurdle relays.

“We all really wanted to run this race,” Jamie Sanford (12) said. “We’ve been trying to compete in it for so long because it’s a really fun race to do.”

Hurdles is not a traditional team relay event. Instead, hurdles are most commonly an individual event, where the runners are often racing against each other and focused on getting a low individual time. However, hurdlers like Joyce and Young were excited to compete in the shuttle hurdle relay event because of the team effort and collaboration required.

“We’d been practicing with each other a lot and we had a lot of chemistry,” Joyce said. “You get really hyped up when it’s your teammates’ turn, and you’re just encouraging them the whole time.”

Because the shuttle hurdle relay is a group effort, it is generally a more casual race that is not as competitive as the other hurdle events.

“It was really fun because we’re not racing against each other,” Joyce said. “But we’re racing with each other.”

The runners prepared for the shuttle hurdle relay by going about their usual hurdle practices with slight variations. The hurdles teams would practice by having pairs of hurdlers face one another in two different lanes right next to each other and sprint toward each other.

This practice helped them envision the handoff aspect of the shuttle hurdle relays, where their teammate would be sprinting toward them.

“We were getting used to the idea that someone would be running at you the same time you’re running toward them, because that’s something you never encounter in regular hurdles,” Sanford said.

In a typical hurdles race, the official calls people into position and fires the gun, but in shuttle hurdle relays, the timing is slightly different.

Racers must be actively aware of their teammate running toward them and sense the person as they hit the cone next to them before they can run.

“We had a huge fear of disqualifying and getting an invalid time because of this,” Sanford said. “You have to feel that your teammate had run past the cone next to you so that you can go.”

Although it was everyone’s first time competing in the shuttle hurdle relays, both teams placed at the meet. Though the meet only occurs once a year, the hurdles team said they are excited to participate in the event again next year.

“As long as we have the athletes able to compete, we will definitely enter in the [shuttle hurdle relays] again,” coach Jamal Felton said.