Naomi Vagher was one of the Ulysses High School athletes to qualify to compete in the state competition in Wichita last weekend.
Vagher graduated this year from UHS and has been running in track for the past five years. She not only qualified for state competition, she set and the 4x100 Lady Tigers broke school records.
Vagher broke the record for the 200 meter with a time of 25.81. When asked how she felt when she found out she had broken a records, Vagher said she was "shocked".
"I was shocked at first and then really excited," she said. "It was a thought in the back of my head to beat it, but my main focus was qualifying for state."
Vagher was also very excited to be among the athletes who had qualified for state competition.
"Ever since I was in middle school, it has been a dream of mine to make it," she said, adding she was "praying and mentally preparing."
Vagher said she likes track because of the "competition."
"Even though you are competing against other people from different towns, you're mainly competing against yourself and trying to better yourself," she said. "I also like track because of the teamwork that it involves. I have made lifelong memories with the best people and that is all thanks to track."
Running events are where Vagher likes to be.
"I like running because it feels like time stops and I'm frozen in the moment," she said, "but my head feels like it's going a thousand miles an hour."
Training is important. Vagher said the team practices during the track season Monday through Friday and it consists of either "working on their endurance, or speed building."
Track is not just about athletics.
"Track gives me the opportunity to meet new people and build new relationships, not only in our high school, but surrounding areas as well," Vagher said.
So what is Vagher's motivation?
"My motivation is my mom and dad, because in everything I have done they have been my number one supporters and have taught me to enjoy the moment, but to never settle because your mind will carry you further than your body," Vagher said.
Even though the UHS track season is over, Vagher plans to continue on. Her future plans include attending Pratt Community College to pursue a degree in physical therapy and, of course, to play volleyball and run in track.
Vagher was one of the four team members to qualify for state in the 4x100. Other members were: Zoey Stein, Zoey Stein, Yoselyn Lerma and Natalya Sifuentes. The Lady Tigers not only qualified for state with the relay event, again, a school record was broken at Regionals.
The 4x1 team set a new school record of 50.62 while competing at Regionals in Buhler. At the time, the team had only been running together for about two weeks.
Stein, like Vagher, has also been running in track for five years. She likes track for the opportunities.
"It gives me the opportunities to challenge myself as an individual, but as well as the opportunity to support my teammates," Stein said. "Running track gives me the ability to make memories with new people and the people on my team."
Running is more than just an event.
"Being able to run allows me to de-stress," Stein said. "I don't have to worry about what's going on around me and I can focus on myself. It also allows me to stay in shape."
When asked what brought the four of them together as a team, Stein again credited "opportunity."
"We saw an opportunity late in the season to change our relay," she said. "This decision led us to achieve the outcome we all worked hard for."
So what is the key to their success?
"We are teammates, but at the end of the day we are just as much friends as we are teammates," Stein said. "Making sure we are friends away from the track makes our bond stronger and allows us to run better."
Stein also practiced Monday through Friday during the track season.
"During these practices, we worked on endurance and speed that would help us improve in this race," she said.
When Stein learned their newly formed team had broken a record, she said she felt "overwhelming joy."
"We went out with the intentions of getting the chance to qualify for state and we walked away with an even better way to remember this year," she said.
Stein was very excited about going to state.
"(And excited) about getting the opportunity to showcase my skills," she said adding that in preparation for the competition, "I have been praying and physically preparing myself to run. I am hoping to go out and run my hardest and qualify for finals."
Stein's motivation comes from her little brother, Tucker.
"I have always done my best so that he has a good role model to look up to," she said. "Tucker continues to support me and I hope to do the same for him as he gets older."
Stein, who also graduated this year, plans include attending Washburn University and major in Kinesiology. She, too, plans to participate on the track team there.
Sifuentes, who was a sophomore this year at UHS, has been participating in track for three years. She likes the "experience."
"I like track because you get the experience of a team sport and individual sport all in one," she said. "The relationships you build in this sport are unlike any other. By the end of the season you become family."
Running is much more than an event to Sifuentes.
"I like running because no matter how hard it is, I know I am working towards something bigger," she said. "It is more than just a medal. It is knowing that all my hard work paid off and being able to make my team, family and friends proud."
Sifuentes said it was passion that brought the four of them together as a team.
"We were passionate and wanted to put our team in the best position in hopes that we would qualify for state," she said. "We took a risk and made a change late in the season. Our decision ultimately led to us qualifying for state and breaking the record."
What makes them work together as a team?
"We all have the same goal and our relationships go beyond being teammates," Sifuentes said. "We know that we need each other to reach our goal together."
As for breaking the record?
"This record is one we knew was in our reach," Sifuentes said. "The main goal that day was to qualify for state since it would only be our second time running as a team. When we broke the record, it was a very overwhelming experience and we all shared a special moment where many tears of joy were shed."
Sifuentes said track has provided her with many friendships and memories.
"It gave me passion and taught me mental toughness," she said. "Without this sport I would not be who I am today."
Sifuentes said qualifying for state was "bittersweet" for her.
"Because half of my team is leaving after this year," she said. "It will be my last race with the girls who raised me in this sport and supported me through it all. The best thing I can do to prepare is pray for God to help us run to the best of our abilities. I don't like going with any expectations. It is best to go in with an open mind and run your race."
Sifuentes said her motivation is God, her family, and her teammates. She plans to participate in track again next year.
Lerma is the youngest team members, having been a freshman this year at UHS. She said she likes track for the positive environment and the opportunity to "improve my mentality."
"I like running because of the exhilarating rush that comes with competing against others who have similar goals," she said.
When asked about how the team came together, Lerma said the other three had been running together for about a year.
"And they made the tough decision to put me on it (the 4x100 team)," she added. "Apart from being teammates, we're all good friends who support each other and strive for the same goal."
How did she feel to breaking a record?
"When I first found out about the record, I felt happy mostly for the girls I ran with because they reached the goal they have been working hard for all season," Lerma said. "Having run the event with them only a few times before, I was not focused on any record, but more on improving my hand-offs. The rest was thanks to my coaches and teammates for being so patient with me."
In the beginning, track was just a way for her to "stay in shape", according to Lerma, "but it turned in to much more."
"I felt extremely blessed to be able to go to state with the girls who have helped me out tremendously throughout the season," Lerma said. "The most important thing to me before any race is praying and keeping a positive mindset. The expectations we have on each other are very high and we expect nothing else but the best from all of us."
Lerma said her motivation in everything is "God and her family."
Following high school, Lerma wants to focus on her education and go in to the field of computer science.
Vagher said the decision to run the 4x100 as a team was "worth it".
"We made the decision to go with what we thought was best and changed our relay late in the season," she said. "We accomplished our goals and then some. We are teammates, but most importantly, we are all friends who all want the same thing which was to qualify and place."
Vagher was excited and surprised to learn their team had broken a record.
"We went out there with the intentions of having a better chance at qualifying, but we ended up getting something more memorable," she said.
Her motivation for the 4x100 at state was her teammates.
"My motivation was to leave it all out there and try my hardest for these girls," she said.
It may have been a "late in the season decision", but the four teammates left their mark. After having run together for such a short time, they brought home seventh place in the state competition and broke a school record. It may have been late, but that decision appears to have been on the mark.
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