For the amount of time Cedarville’s women’s 4×800-meter relay team has been running, it’s members have accomplished quite a bit.
It’s a young team. Olivia Esbenshade is the only junior, while Carsyn Koch, Carly Rose and Sarah Hoffman are all sophomores. Women’s track and field head coach Jeff Bolender said the four each bring something different to the team.
“They are all talented runners,” Bolender said. “Each of them have different strengths, but for all of them, the 800 is their best event.”
Individually, Koch has the best time. She has the four fastest times in Cedarville history, and her most recent time of 2:03.58 at the Mt. SAC Relays in mid-April beat her previous record by almost two seconds.
The other runners have also performed well. Esbenshade has the seventh fastest time in school history with 2:10.83. Hoffman’s best time is 2:19.23, and Rose’s personal best is 2:21.41. Despite having only run the 4×800 relay together twice, they have set the school record both times.
Koch said Bolender has been a big part of the team’s success.
“If you look at all of our (personal records) from high school in comparison to where we are now, it is an amazing improvement,” Koch said. “I went from a 2:21 PR to a 2:05 in one year.”
But Bolender said the girls deserve some of the credit for their success as well.
“You have to have that certain amount of intrinsic motivation, you have to want it for yourself,” Bolender said. “No matter how bad the coach wants it for you, you do have to want it.”
The team’s motivation and hard work paid off. Their times were good enough to qualify them to compete in the 4×800 relay at the University of Texas Relays in Austin in April. In this race, the Jackets placed fifth behind Clemson, Baylor, Liberty and Kansas, all of which are Division I schools. Cedarville finished ahead of schools like North Texas and St. Louis University, and the runners’ relay time of 8:59.84 broke the team’s previous school record, set in March 2015, by almost five seconds.
Bolender said the girls’ time met his expectations for the meet.
“I thought they could do that well, and really, just within a couple of seconds, they would have been a couple places higher,” Bolender said. “We were confident they could run well.”
Koch said she was excited for the opportunity to run against great competition.
“The energy was insane with so many people watching,” Koch said. “It was an exciting chance to race against some really great competition.”
Koch also said there is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into running in meets. She said there is a lot of individual work that goes into preparing for meets like the Texas or Mt. SAC relays.
“There is so much more to a training plan than people think,” Koch said. “There are peaks to training, tough times of training and times where we back off.”
Esbenshade echoed Koch, saying it takes a lot of hard work to break records and run in big meets.
“We run high mileage workouts every week and lift,” she said. “We have been competing against really good girls a lot, like at the Texas relays. Running against good people is pushing us to get a lot better.”
Bolender said because the team is so young, they can only get better. He said he hopes that, as they continue to train, they will see improvement.
“We talk about not just running, but running with a purpose,” Bolender said. “Training to try and reach a goal or a target. Hopefully they do that.”
Esbenshade said in addition to running together, living together has also contributed to how close the relay team is.
“We are a pretty close team,” Esbenshade said. “We all live in the same hall in Willets, and when we travel, we room together.”
With all the time the team spends together, Koch said they have grown close. She said running is a special sport as far as team chemistry goes.
“We are all essentially competing against the clock or a specific mark,” Koch said. “This makes it so that we can appreciate each other’s successes.”
Editor’s note 5/5/16: Relay team member Carsyn Koch qualified for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials in the 800 meter with her time of 2:02.39 in the Payton Jordan Invitational held May 1 at Stanford University. The top 32 runners in the event will be invited to compete in the Olympic Trials July 1-10 in Eugene, Oregon, according to the Yellow Jackets press release.
Josh Burris is a junior journalism major and multimedia person for Cedars. He is interested in sports broadcasting and reporting. He enjoys watching sports, lifting, and listening to rock and rap.