Palatine's boys track team competes at Hinsdale Central's McCarthy Invite the night before, but Pirates coach John Nalley always saves something special for the next day, at the meet named for his father.
Saturday's Palatine special at Lisle's 46th annual Carlin Nalley Invitational was the 3,200-meter relay of Christian Zambrano, Zach Stella, Graham Brown and Andrew Clingerman. The three seniors and sophomore Stella had their minds set on setting a school record, and used the power of positive thinking to do so.
"We went into that knowing we were going to do really well," said Clingerman, the anchor. "We had full team spirit and everything, it was great. We just had a really good mood going, so it was awesome."
Not just awesome. Totally awesome.
The Pirates' foursome, which hadn't run the relay as a group since the indoor conference meet and probably won't again until Class 3A preliminaries according to distance coach Chris Quick, set a school and meet record of 7 minutes, 50.00 seconds. (The time initially was announced as 7:49.99.)
"This is actually the first time we put our best relay together this (outdoor) season," said leadoff man Zambrano. "We knew whenever we wanted to run together we wanted to do big things. It's a special time whenever we get our group together, so we wanted to put a big one out there today."
As desired in this long relay, each runner completed his 800-meter leg in under 2 minutes. Zambrano's split time was a shade over 1 minute, 55 seconds, Brown's 1:57, Stella's 1:59, and Clingerman ran his portion in 1:56.
Cumulatively they broke the Palatine record of 7:50.80 set last year by Kendrick Cornelius, Tim Johnson, Zambrano and Clingerman in the Class 3A 3,200 state preliminaries. The Nalley Invite 2A/3A record they broke, 7:53.89, belonged to a Waubonsie Valley foursome that went on to claim the 3A state title in the event.
"That was kind of what we thought we could do," Quick said, "but there's a difference between what you think you can do and what you can do. That was a little bit more of what we can do. As a coach that's really great, I'm just really proud of the boys."
It's hard not to be, particularly at a school as steeped in distance running as Palatine.
"The tradition is so strong in our program, it's just an honor to be able to run for it," Zambrano said. "There's tons of guys going through our program, tons of all-time greats, and to be able to set a school record in a distance program like Palatine is a really special thing for us."
"It feels so nice," Clingerman added. "We've been working at this for so long. All four of my years this has been my dream, come down here and do as well as we can. Hopefully we're going to run at state and win. That's the goal."