Hays feels 'at home' while running track
Love for sport driving senior toward state championships, school record
With the OSSAA State Track and Field Championships just nine weeks away Brianna Hays is focused on bettering her sixth place 800-meter run state finishing time from a year ago while adding another race to her repertoire.
“I’m just improving on my form and getting in the groove of things,” the Broken Arrow High School senior said. “I’m working on my 800 time, but also learning how to run the 300 hurdles.
“We’re just getting used to being in season now and running outdoors.”
In Saturday’s Phil Sweeney Classic at Holland Hall, Hays showed she has more than the potential of being a champion in the 300 hurdles as she captured gold. She and teammate Auryana Johnson finished one-two in the event with runners from Jenks and Union finishing behind them.
Hays also was part of the meet-record setting 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
Lengthier runs, Hays believes, are key to helping her accomplish mid-distance race goals. One of those goals is a state championship. The other is eclipsing Jessica Eldridge’s 16-year school record 800 meter time of 2:10.72. That was a state record until last season.
“I’m mostly going to focus on a lot of mileage,” Hays said. “I think that would help me get the stamina I need.”
By timing herself, Hays has found another way to cut “seconds” off her time. She also credits the pushing and encouraging of Tiger track coach Scott Wilkinson.
“She was sixth last year, but I do think there's a good chance she can win it,” Wilkinson said, referencing the 800-meter. “She’ll have to train at a really high level to make that happen. She’s going to have to be fully committed to training every day for the next eight to nine weeks”
Wilkinson is counting on Hays to lead the team to a 6A State Championship. The last time that happened for the Lady Tigers was 2004.
“I expect her to do what she needs to do so we can win a state championship, and that's going to require her to do multiple events,” Wilkinson said. “At the state meet she is going to have to compete at a high level, but I think she is capable of doing that.”
A week after the state meet Hays will graduate from Broken Arrow and turn her attention to competing for the University of Tulsa, with whom she signed a letter of intent in February.
“I was thinking about going to OSU and was looking at Arkansas, but I decided to go to TU because I felt at home and I liked the coaches a lot,” she said. “The biggest thing to me was they are focused on your mentality and the sport. They weren't just focused on the physical aspect, even though that's a big one also.
“I like the smaller atmosphere and it’s still a D1 school. Plus, you get a top rate education, so I feel like I am getting the best athletically and academically for me.”
That “at home” feeling of Hays spoke to the ease she felt when visiting TU for the first time. It is similar to the connection she has with being a track athlete.
“I love track,” she said. “I just feel most at home on the track. It's really mental. You have to be strong mentally and physically to run track.
“I just thought that this is the sport that will be the hardest for me, but it's also fun doing different events and running relays. I love relays.
“It is just the atmosphere of track that I liked so much.”
In a little more than two months perhaps the Tiger track atmosphere will be filled with a state championship celebration.