BY AYANA ANDERSON
“Stick,” Mary Young shouted.
“Stick,” Rai Ahmed-Green replied.
Breathless shouts for the baton are barely heard in the stadium as relay teams practice their hand-offs for the upcoming track events.
This relay team is unique. Disregarding the records set by these women on the track, three-fourths of the 4×1 team are roommates and have been for three years.
The precision in which the baton is handed off for these runners is derived from the family-like relationship shared between Rai Ahmed-Green, Kaylen Rettig, Taryn Rolle and Mary Young.
“You can switch to Zumba freshman year,” Ahmed-Green said. “You were menestrating.”
“You mean menstruating,” Young said.
“So we had to run to Target,” Ahmed-Green said. “I had to drive because Coach Bennett, he was freaking out because he was a dude, and she was on her period. I drove.”
“Yeah, she drove,” Young continued. ”And I was like, she kinda mad at the beginning, but it was funny. Next thing you know, we are all hanging out on the track.”
“Track brought us together,” Ahmed-Green added.
“Not necessarily … like kinda,” Rolle said. “The track team always had a high population of black people doing sprint, jumps, hurdles. So, it’s like you gravitate towards most of the people … that’s just who I am.”
“So, yeah. It was mostly track and blackness,” Ahmed-Green said.
Although these women are like family, their friendship was catalyzed by their living situation.
“Our coach picked out our roommates,” Ahmed-Green said.
“Kaylen was assigned to me,” Young said. “So, I met her during orientation.”
“Yeah. I signed late,” Ahmed-Green said, “and I lived in Stalnaker instead of Herriot with all the athletes.”
“I was in Herriot because of my FYS,” Rolle said. “I actually roomed with a tennis player. But I remember the first day, I’m peeking my head cause two black girls are moving next to me. Then we found out that we were on the track team.”
Although they were scattered across different residence halls their first year at Drake University, Ahmed-Green, Rettig, Rolle and Young shared room 270 in Goodwin-Kirk their sophomore year and then Room 336 in West Village their junior year.
“At first, I was nervous about us living all together,” Rolle said. “Mary and Kaylen always had people over and were always loud. But when we got the quad in GK, everything worked out. And, now that most of us have boyfriends, I think we all chilled out.”
From Sunday services at church to going to the shooting range, they have become best friends.
“They’ve been here together for four years,” said Nginidzashe Makusha, one of their coaches. “Obviously, they’re comfortable with each other, which is really just great being on the track team having the building friendships … That’s what I see with them. They’re just not teammates. They’re really close friends and more like a family … like sisters and friends.”
Since their first year at Drake, the track team has had three different coaching staffs. The transition from each administration has been hard on the team and even harder on these four seniors. To help the team get through this tough time of change, Ahmed-Green, Rettig, Rolle and Young have taken on leadership and mentor roles to solidify the track team as a family.
“My favorite thing about Mary is that, not only are we hurdles sisters, she has always been a leader for me,” said Bryce Lang, a member of the women’s track team. “My favorite thing about Rai is that she is very strong willed. She knows when things aren’t right and will always speak up for those who won’t. My favorite thing about Kaylen is that she is very resilient. Taryn is like the mom to me. She is a hard worker and has been there to show it all pays off.”
Relays is an exciting time for the relay teams. They get to run together and watch each other compete in their different events. This will most likely be the last time that they will step onto the track.
“Most of us don’t really plan on doing track after,” Ahmed-Green said. “So, when that’s your last race, that is your last race on the track. There’s only two races after that. It’s the closing of your year and your Drake career.”
Drake Relays will always be a staple in their friendship. It was the first meet that they raced together and it will be one of the last ones that they will compete in together.