An Arby’s shirt and a golden baton

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Photo courtesy of Sean Cochran

Due to a bet conceived at the very beginning of the Indoor Track season, largely inspired by Head Track and Field Coach Chris Pellegrini’s occasional visits to Arby’s following meets, he was obligated to wear the restaurant’s shirt for their podium picture.

The Indoor Track 4×800 meter relay team took first place at the Indoor Track and Field State Championships with a time of 7:53.32, securing the current US number one spot, running the third-fastest Indoor 4×800 meter relay in school history, setting the meet facility record, and breaking the record for most consecutive State wins in the event.

“If you kinda count the Indoor and Outdoor [Track] season, and then back to the next Indoor as the way consecutive seasons work, this means that the Boys 4×800 has won each of the last five consecutive seasons,” said Head Track and Field Coach Chris Pellegrini. “They were previously tied for four in a row with a [Lake] Braddock streak from several years ago, but they’re by themselves at five now.”

In recent years, the 4×800 meter relay has arguably begun to define our track program. Since 2019, the only State champion not in a 4×800 meter relay for either gender was Sean Stuck, who took home back-to-back titles in the open 3200 meter run before also snagging another two rings in his senior year as a part of the 2019 State Champion Cross Country team and the 2020 Indoor Track 4×800 relay team.

Still, with only two relay teams securing faster times indoors, both of whom ran before Pellegrini became the head coach, this relay team is certainly one of the best, if not the best, he’s ever coached.

“I’m pretty happy with how we did,” said senior Kyle LaJoye. “We had a set race plan going into it and I think we executed that. My job was to hand off in the lead and get a little bit of a gap on second place, which I was able to do.”

This year marked LaJoye’s first season as the leadoff runner, taking one of the two spots left vacant by the departures of runners Alex Asady and Hunter Hanks. After finally breaking through the two-minute barrier at Regionals, LaJoye ran a personal-best split of 1:58.98 at States to put his team out in front early.

“I was really happy, especially with my teammates’ performances,” said junior Henry Anderson. “Coming out with a State championship was the goal going in, it’s what we knew we could achieve, so just coming out with the ring on our fingers was everything that I wanted.”

Just like LaJoye, this was Anderson’s first season as a member of the vaunted relay team, and his split of 2:01.57 was right around his personal best.

“I’m very happy with how the 4×800 did,“ said senior Sean Cochran. “I think becoming the US number-one time isn’t a small feat and I’m really proud of how we did. And I hope that we can hold that spot through Nationals.”

One of two returning runners from last spring, Cochran ran a huge personal-best split of 1:57.08. Near the tail end of his leg, a controversial collision between Cochran and South Lake’s Kai Gibson threatened to disqualify the team, as Gibson lost control of his baton as Cochran was passing him. The interaction was ultimately ruled to be accidental contact however, and contact that was specifically initiated by Gibson, rather than Cochran.

“I’m ecstatic [with how we ran at States],” said senior John O’Donnell. “I don’t think we could have written it up any better.”

O’Donnell’s anchor split of 1:55.66 was the second fastest in the field. Now a four-time State champion, he has anchored the last three State-winning relays and hopes to anchor a fourth in the spring.

First though, the team’s sights are set on running at the New Balance Indoor Nationals later this month, and, at least for the moment, it seems that the title will be theirs to lose.