RIVERVIEW — To this point, it has proved itself as unbeatable locally as it is unassuming physically. The quartet that comprises Newsome’s best boys relay team knows it scares exactly no one at the starting line.
And the Wolves love it.
“I like it when people try to judge a book by its cover because you kind of get surprised at the end of what’s really inside,” bespectacled No. 3 leg Isaac Baker said.
“We walk on the track, you’ve got a couple of skinny toothpicks, you’ve got a muscle man, we’ve got another muscle guy, and you’re like, ‘Aw, those guys aren’t fast,’ and we just keep quiet waiting for the race to start.”
Meet the group that has spent the past month shattering school records and stereotypes. The Wolves 4x400-meter relay team — Baker, junior Harvey Noah and seniors A.J. Dowse and Adam Mallady — want you thinking they’re a bunch of advanced-placement scholars out for track.
You’d be accurate, though the truth is likely to hurt you more than it hurts them.
“We are underestimated,” said Dowse, the anchor leg who owns a 4.4 GPA and the nickname “White Lightning.” “It kind of helps us run, to prove people wrong.”
Entering the season’s stretch run, the Wolves have dropped their times, but not the baton — ever. The next race they lose will be their first.
They sprinted into the area’s consciousness three Saturdays ago at the Charles Johnson Invitational at King High, where they set a school record (3:24.68) in astounding fashion.
Trailing runners from Hillsborough and Pompano Beach Ely entering the final turn, Dowse found a seam between the two, then accelerated along the inside lane to win by more than two seconds.
“I was just astonished,” said Dowse, a proficient base-stealer in the South Brandon Little League who discovered track when he failed to make Newsome’s baseball team as a freshman.
“I was like, ‘How did we pull that off?’ It felt like it was kind of a miracle.”
Actually, it was a harbinger of heats to come. A week later, at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational, Dowse and Co. went even faster (3:23.46). They were set to run at Wednesday’s Western Conference Federal Division meet at Spoto before it was halted by inclement weather.
“Trust” is the key, Baker said. “We have to know each other. We’ve got to know our paces and how we come in. That handoff is what gets us to win.
“I wasn’t sure if (Dowse) was going to be able to take them all (at the Johnson Invitational), but it’s the trust issue. I saw him at that last curve and he just found a hole. I saw him bust through and I knew it was all over.”
Baker and Dowse think the group has a chance to eclipse 3:20, which would’ve earned a top-five finish at last season’s Class 4A state meet. They formed half the Newsome team that placed 14th in that race.
Their speed and seasoning, combined with the other pair’s upside, make their goal reasonable.
Noah, the rangiest of the group, appears to have the most physical promise. Mallady, a cornerback/free safety on Newsome’s football team, is healthy again after sustaining a stress fracture in his back last spring. Dowse says Mallady may be even faster than before.
All the better to fracture perceptions.
“We’re young and it’s just (three weeks) before we’ve got districts,” said Mallady, the No. 2 leg. “I think we can shave a lot more time off. A.J. and Isaac, they just keep getting better.”