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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Apr. 7, 2022 2 months ago

FAST FOUR: Ocoee High seniors break three 4x400 records

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Miracle Johnson, Jarvia Garr, Lourdes Safford and Alyia Green will compete again at the Metro West Conference Championship.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

When Ocoee High seniors Miracle Johnson, Jarvia Garr, Lourdes Safford and Alyia Green posted a time of 3:52.42 in the 4x400 Feb. 26, at the Windermere Meet of Champions, they broke not one, not two, but three records in the process.

“They set the school’s record (Ocoee High), the stadium record (Deputy Scott Pine Community Park) and the meet record,” coach David Peaco said. 

The school announced the girls’ achievement over the intercom the Monday after the meet.

Given this is their last year on the team before graduation, Peaco allowed them to choose the relay’s order. 

“I trusted in them, and I told them, ‘If we don’t win, you will never pick the order again,’” he said. “But in doing that and letting go of some of the reins, they opened up and trusted me with how they felt.”

The girls said they chose their order based on their known  strengths and weaknesses. Safford ran the first leg, followed by Johnson, Garr and Green. 

Safford’s strength is getting out, maintaining the stager and being able to maintain a good spot before passing the baton to the second leg. 

“I feel like being first leg is really nerve-racking, because that’s making or breaking the race,” she said. 

Johnson is strong at being second, as she is one of the fastest runners for the 400 meters. 

“I’m just thinking I have to get out,” she said. “Once I get out I need to maintain the pace and if someone’s in front of me, I need to catch them. … That’s why the last 100 (meters) can be so tiring.”

Like Johson, Garr is able to maintain the pace, making her the perfect third runner.

“When I got the baton, my main focus was to maintain what we had,” she said. “For me, it was just executing all the techniques and everything we were taught — like keeping our knees up, pumping our arms and just getting around the track for a good split time.”

For this relay, Green was the strongest leg. She was able to catch one of the team’s strongest opponents, St. Thomas Aquinas, and push hard even in first place, allowing her team to score a personal record. 

“I love fourth leg; I  just love to hawk them down,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK keep maintaining it.’ As I heard the people cheering in the background, that pushed it up for me, and at the end of the race, I just sprinted in.” 

Johnson is the only member of the team who has run track for Ocoee since her freshman year. Safford and Garr transferred from Dr. Phillips one and two years ago, respectively. Green transferred from Olympia High at the end of last season. 

All four started running in middle school.

“I wanted to do every sport, because in sixth grade, I couldn’t do any sports,” Garr said. “So I tried out for all sports. Then I found out I was good at track. I didn’t make any other sports except for track.”

When Peaco saw Johnson and Garr run for the first time, he was certain they would be great additions to the team. During her freshman year, Johnson made it to states. 

“The man above has a way of doing things,” he said. “(Johnson) stayed on the team and a few years later, these three joined in. You don’t come across these type of girls that often.”

The girls have a great connection on and off the track, and they are confident that helps them with their performance on the track. 

“We are always checking on each other, making sure we eat well and take care of ourselves before every meet,” Garr said. “We love watching each other grow on a day-to-day basis.” 

All four girls have several offers from different universities around the country to run track at the collegiate level. Johnson already is signed to Tennessee State University.

“I am very nervous to run at college,” she said. “There’s going to be high expectations.” 

The girls will have another chance to set a personal record at the Metro West Conference Championship April 9. 

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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