2017 Boys Track and Field Athletes of the Year: Central’s 4×400 relay team has special season

The Central High School's state champion 4x400 relay team: from left, Kyle Clanton, Coy Jiminez, Saxon Franklin, and Carston Shockey. The quartet broke the state record in the event with a time of 3:26.44. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Kyle Clanton, Saxon Franklin, Coy Jimenez and Carston Shockey knew from the very first meet of the season that could something special this year — and they did.

The Central quartet not only defended their Group 2A state title in the 4×400-meter relay they broke the state record with a time of 3:26.44.

“There’s nothing else like it,” Shockey said. “The feeling doesn’t compare to anything, especially winning it twice. You never get tired of knowing that you just won the state championship in that event. Words can’t describe it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

In the very first meet of the season the quartet set a new personal record in the event, and after that they were simply chasing the record books.

Clanton, Jimenez and Shockey were all part of last year’s 4×400 relay team that won the state title, but Wyatt Robinson graduated so the Falcons had to find a new member of the relay team.

Franklin, a senior, said he knew the team needed somebody to step up and he was glad to do it.

“Initially I didn’t want to run it,” Franklin said. “But I figured if we were going to do it, I might as well do it the best we can do and it kind of grew on me. I kind of learned to love it. I kind of grew to love the 4×4. It was nice senior year to step into something like that, knowing that we had a really good chance to take it all again.”

Franklin took Robinson’s spot as the second runner, while Shockey continued to be the first runner and Clanton and Jimenez closed the race out.

Clanton, Franklin, Jimenez and Shockey, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2017 Male Track Athletes of the Year, each bring something different to the race.

In most races Shockey, a senior, was able to put the Falcons in good position after the first 400 meters. Then Franklin would typically put the Falcons close to or in the lead before handing it off to Clanton. At that point the two speedsters would take over. Clanton and Jimenez were two of the top Group 2A 400-meter runners in the state.

Clanton, a sophomore, is known for his fast starts and usually gave Central a comfortable lead.

“At times people at the meet and would stop and watch his leg, because he just took off so fast,” Central coach Rick Lytton said of Clanton.

Jimenez would then finish the race off, typically with a sizeable lead. The junior said that they learned how to run the race without facing as tough of competition as they would have liked.

“It’s tough to run a really good time because there’s no one out there to push you, make you better,” Jimenez said. “We have a really, really good mentality and were able to run hard even when there’s nobody up there.”

The Falcons wanted to break the school record of 2:25.9, but came up a little short. They said they felt like if they had faced a little faster competition they could have done even better.

The four said they have grown closer through running together and working together to achieve a state title.

“We’re pretty much family, we’re like brothers,” Jimenez said. “We joke around with each other, but we can also be really serious and get work done.”

Central lost only one 4×400 relay race last year, finishing third to two Group 3A schools in the Turner Ashby Invitational. This season they went undefeated.

One of their closest calls of the season came in the Stonewall Jackson Invitational. Shockey was unable to be there and freshman William Ball took his place. Lytton said he could tell Ball was nervous and he struggled a little bit, but the other three rallied and were still able to win the race by over seven seconds.

Jimenez also finished third in the 400-meter dash (50.37), sixth in the 100-meter dash (11.55) and seventh in the discus (129-04). Clanton placed fifth in the 200-meter dash (23.08), and Franklin placed third in the triple jump (43-10.50) at the Group 2A state meet.

Clanton and Jimenez said they wished they had one more year with Franklin and Shockey on the team. They said that the day after winning the state title, they immediately began thinking about next year and trying to find two new runners to join them.

“We’re trying to get two new guys that want to come out here and work and get faster,” Clanton said. “We’ve been talking about winning to some of the freshman or younger kids that don’t run track now. Trying to get them involved by saying you could win a state title or state championship. That kind of gets them in the ball park of what they could really do.”

Being seniors Franklin and Shockey said they couldn’t have thought of a better way to end their senior years.

“That’s the fairy tale ending,” Franklin said. “That’s as good as it gets, especially with it being a spring sport. That’s the last thing everyone’s going to remember about us, is ‘oh hey those are the guys that won the title, that broke the record.’ And that’s something that no one can take from us.”