FORT WAYNE – After running on the state championship and record-breaking 1,600-meter relay team last year, why was it so different for North Side junior Tyvon Kelley to run the 400 last week at the Max Truex Relays in Warsaw?
Because in his role in the second leg of the 1,600 relay race in 2012, Kelley didn’t have to worry too much about running with a staggered start. It was just one lane, all out.
But after the graduation of the three other members of the state championship team – Ed Benson, Kersten Barnfield and Mohammed Bangura – Kelley moved to back of the line on the relay team and to the forefront for the open (non-relay) 400 races.
Barnfield and Benson were the Redskins’ primary 400 runners last season, so it left Kelley with little experience running in the staggered open 400 situation.
I was really nervous about that, Kelley said of his first open 400 race of the outdoor season and one of the rare ones in his high school career. I was a lot more nervous than I expected to be because I was running behind some other pretty good 400 runners (last year). I just tried to keep my pace because I am so used to running in split 400s. It was so much different. I like it now.
There’s a lot more pressure than last year. Last year, I didn’t have too much focus on me because we had other guys. This year, there’s more pressure on me to perform a lot better than I did last year. It doesn’t really bother me. It is just kind of there. It does push me a little more to do better.
In his first open 400 of the season, Kelley was just one-tenth of second off the 25-year-old school record of 48.5. The mark also ranks the second-fastest in the state this season.
Running the quarter with a two-turn stagger is kind of tricky because you have to judge whether you are gaining too fast or not fast enough, North Side coach Andrew Schmitz said. He actually handled it very well. He is still getting it worked out, but he is fast.
Schmitz said Kelley is a humble, team-oriented runner who has transitioned well to being the anchor leg of the 1,600 relay team. Senior C.J. Jackson was also part of the 1,600 relay team and helped the Redskins set a SAC record but was not one of the four relay runners at the state meet.
Last year, he ran behind (Benson, Barnfield) so he had that cushion and that safety zone where they were supposed to be the guys, Schmitz said. Nine times out of 10, he ended up running faster splits than them and never got a chance to run the open 400 because they had it locked down pretty tight.
It is a transition to being the guy who everybody is depending on. It is frustrating for him transitioning into the role, but ultimately he is doing it really well, and I have big expectations for him.
We are trying to keep him low-keyed, and he is still trying to figure out the competition. It is just now starting to sink in just how fast he is.
The workload will increase for Kelley as he will have the 100 and 200 races in addition to the 400 and 1,600 relay at today’s SAC meet at Northrop. This season, Kelley also has the state’s fourth-best time in the 100 (10.74).
That’s a lot more races than he is used to, Schmitz said. But the sky’s the limit for him.