​Fort Dorchester boys relay team takes 4x400 championship, avenges 2014 miscue

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COLUMBIA -- The Fort Dorchester High boys' 4x400 meter relay team took the state 4A championship in that event Saturday in a performance that erased any lingering memories of a dreadfully disappointing effort on the same track a year earlier.

The quartet entered the state championships in 2014 as one of the top 4x400 high school teams in the state, but a dropped baton during one exchange ended the Patriots' hopes of a state title.

Despite the fumbled baton hand-off, the team would still place seventh in that race. But the damage was done, and from that point they vowed not to make the same miscue in 2015. The team won both their regional and 4A state qualifier, and they saved their best performance of the season for the state championship, winning the 4x400 with a time of 3:19.31.

Junior Olin Ravenel set the tone and tempo for the Patriots in the first leg, admitting that he went out "faster than I usually do."

Ravenel would get out to a lead neither he nor his teammates would surrender.

"Nobody wanted to win this race more than I did," he said after running a clean leg that included a smooth baton exchange with fellow junior Bobby Williams, who was competing in his first state championship.

"I was nervous, but everything went smoothly and I was able to finish the leg strong to keep the lead," Williams said.

Senior Deontearis Williams held that lead during the third leg, with another flawless baton hand-off to fellow senior Josiah Johnson, who ran the anchor leg. Johnson held off Stratford High, which placed second with a time of 3:20.29.

The relays, at 100, 400 and 800 meters, are thought by many to be the most exciting events in track and field, with the 400 at the front of that trio.

"The fans really get into the 4x400," Fort Dorchester head track coach Joey Still said following the race at Spring Valley High. "It's definitely the most exciting event in track for the fans, and the kids enjoy really enjoy it as well."

The event is unique to track, where success is the result of individuals working as a team, particularly within that 20-meter zone where a roughly foot-long, aluminum tube must be passed from one often exhausted teammate to another one eager to take off running. Drop the baton or fail to complete the hand-off within that zone and your team is essentially out of the race.

Then, having successfully negotiated the exchange, "those four kids are asked to run a heck of a race," Still said.

The coach credits sprint and hurdles coach James Quinn for the success the Patriots' boy's team has enjoyed this season following the disappointment in 2014.

"He works hard with these kids and gets them right both mentally and physically to compete," Still said. "They continued to work hard throughout the season and I'm very proud of them."