Falling one second short does a lot to a track athlete.
It sends you back to the infield in anger, returning warm-up clothes to your body, peeled off just minutes before in between muttering expletives under your breath.
It keeps you up at night, causing you to lose hours of sleep over dreams of what could have been.
And it prevents you from making the same mistake twice. Your mind gets so wrapped up in improving that single statistic — a time, a rank — that you aren’t be able to sit still until you get it. Five years now stand between me and my most recent track meet, but one unachieved goal in particular still occupies a portion of my brain.
As of two weeks ago, the Colorado State men’s 4×400-meter relay team can relate. The squad locked in a time just 1.21 seconds shy of the school record that has been standing strong for the past 38 years. For 14 days, the track athletes were forced to dwell on it before having a chance at another shot on this past Saturday afternoon.
Robert Wasinger, Trevor Brown, Zach Browning and Travlor Skudneski paced up and down the grass of the Jack Christiansen track for more than 20 minutes before the gun went off. None of them said a word. They practiced their handoffs in silence.
Dark clouds draped across the Fort Collins sky as they waited patiently, sporting game faces like lions ready to pounce. They had already tasted blood, and it was clear they weren’t leaving until they made their mark on the CSU track and field program.
The four men gathered in a huddle for a motivational speech that ended with sprints coach Karim Abdel Wahab giving a single marching order: “Go get your names on that board.”
The stage couldn’t have been set any more perfectly. It was every runner’s ideal situation as they took lane four on the rubber track in cool, overcast conditions without a breath of wind in the air.
The rest is history — literally.
Skudneski carried the baton over the finish line without another moment to spare, closing the team’s performance out with a final time of 3:10.48, a half-second better than the fastest time the school has ever ran.
“All week I’ve been thinking about that. It was making me nervous,” Brown said with a laugh after the conclusion of the meet. “I’ll have a lot less stressful week now.”
Brown played a huge role in Saturday’s relay, running a blistering 46.3 second split that was followed up with Browning’s 46.8. But according to the team, it was part of the plan all along. The members of the relay squad each sat out their individual events in the 400. Getting the record as a team was more important, they said.
And now, it’s rewarded them big because they can finally say that they’re officially better than the relay team from 1976, which had cast a shadow for way too long. Move over Ginther, Walker, McQueen and Parry — your names are being replaced by the new kids in town.
Wasinger, Brown, Browning and Skudneski’s names will now take the place of what was once the third-oldest record on the board in the hallway of the Glenn Morris Fieldhouse. They’ll walk past it every day from the locker room to the practice field.
The only difference now is that they’ll be looking at it for a different reason, remembering the time they covered the distance of a mile in 190 seconds.
That is, until the next set of sprinters set their eyes on it, which could be another 38 years from now, possibly sooner or maybe even longer.
That’s the beautiful allure of the record board.
Collegian Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @QSickafoose.