AUSTIN — On her own, Marble Falls High School student-athlete Sarah Lewis is fast. But as part of a mile-relay team, she knows the entire squad is even faster and stronger.
“When you’re part of a team like this, you always want to push yourself and run faster,” she said. “You don’t want to let anybody down.”
Lewis, who is running with the Intensity Track Club this summer, knows the next meet brings even more pressure. She and her teammates — Christy Gilbert, Avery Ellis-Byerly and Desirae Walker — head into the Amateur Athletic Union National Junior Track and Field meet with the third fastest qualifying time in the nation.
Lewis, who plays volleyball and runs track for Marble Falls, competed in the Texas University Interscholastic League State Track and Field Championships in May. It was a great experience for the the Lady Mustang. But instead of feeling satisfied with the accomplishment, she continued to push herself.
Her mother, Jeannie Lewis, said one way was to surround herself with some of the best athletes in Central Texas.
“The kids at (Intensity Track Club) are some of the fastest in the area, if not the state,” Jeannie Lewis said. “And everyone of them is extremely dedicated to running and track. It’s a great chance for Sarah.”
“It’s more elite,” she said. “The athletes are really good, and they motivate me to work hard so I’ll get to where I want to be. And I’d like to get a scholarship to run for a college.”
And the Intensity Track Club coach, well, she probably exemplifies the club’s name. Coach Carlette Guidry is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She won gold in the 1992 and the 1996 games as part of the United States women’s 4×100 team.
“I think it’s incredible that (Sarah) gets to work with an Olympic gold medalist,” Jeannie Lewis said.
But Guidry has high standards and expectations. Sarah Lewis understands the level of commitment her coach demands.
“Our workouts are intense,” the youth said with a laugh. “It’s not just the name of the club, it’s how we’re expected to train.”
The Lewises travel into Austin four times a week during the summer for the Marble Falls athlete to work out at Austin High School. Two of the days are dedicated to relay training while the other two are focused on the hurdles. As a track athlete, Lewis ran the mile relay and the 400-meter hurdles in AAU competitions.
In fact, she was poised to head to the national meet in both events during the national qualifying competition in late June at Converse High School stadium in San Antonio. During the 400-meter hurdles, Lewis was holding strong in fourth place (the top four advance to the national meet), but, then, she stumbled.
“My toe caught the last hurdle,” she said. Lewis finished well out of national contention.
Still, she and her mile-relay teammates made the national show by winning the qualifying meet with a time of 4 minutes 0.18 seconds.
As the relay members prepared for the regional and the national AAU qualifying meets, they pushed themselves. But with nationals on the horizon, Lewis noticed a change.
“It’s pretty intense right now,” she said. “We’ve bumped it up.”
On the surface, designing a mile-relay squad would seem rather simple. Find the four fastest sprinters and put them on the track. But Lewis said there is a strategy on how the coaches, including Guidry, devise the lineup.
“The first leg you want to have somebody who can get a lead,” she said. “The second and third, you want runners who can hold that lead. And in the final leg, you probably want your fastest runner because she’ll bring it home.”
The Intensity Track Club relay team has Gilbert of Westwood High School taking the first leg, followed by Ellis-Byerly of Bowie High School and Lewis running the second and third legs and Walker of Austin Crockett High School wrapping things up on the fourth leg.
Though Lewis enjoys competing in individual events such as the hurdles, she finds being part of a team event very rewarding.
“It’s fun to win all together as a team,” she said. “It’s great because you get to share that experience with your teammates.”
The meet is July 28-Aug. 2 at Eastern Michigan University.
While they have the third fastest qualifying team heading into the meet, Lewis said they have higher expectations.
“I think we can do better than third,” she said. “I think we can go for the gold this year.”