By Michael Kinney, Contributing Writer
YUKON – As a freshman, Rachel Hamel had a season that most high school athletes would give away their iPhones for. The Mustang track and field stand out placed third in the 300 meter low hurdles and second in the 100 meter hurdles.
It was the type of ending to a first year of high school track that gets an athlete excited about the future.
However, for Hamel, she saw the conclusion of the 2016 campaign as motivation on what she can do better. Despite it being her first year, she was not satisfied finishing behind anyone on the track.
So when Hamel came this season, she was on a mission. When it was time to hand out medals in the 2017 5A/6A State Track and Field Championships, only gold was going to be placed around her neck.
When it was all said and done, that is exactly what took place as Hamel left Yukon Miller Stadium Saturday with two gold medals and a giant smile.
“I was nervous coming in, especially with how I did last year,” Hamel said. “I was comparing myself to that. But I kind if just got out of my own head and I think that really helped me. I have had more training since then. A lot of support from friends and family and teammates. Just the experience overall.”
Hamel’s first medal came in the 100 meter hurdles. She ran a 15.04 and wasn’t really challenge the last 10 meters. Her best time in the event this season is 14.94 and was the only girl in 6A to post a sub 15.0 time.
“Just coming in, it’s just tunnel vision. It’s hard to know what’s going on until you cross the line,” Hamel said. “You don’t really think about then all of a sudden there is a smile on your face because you realize that you did it. It felt good.”
Hamel received her toughest test in the 300 hurdles. After finishing with the sixth best time in the preliminaries, Hamel was regulated to one of the outside lanes.
Coming down the stretch she found herself trailing, an unusual position for her. By the time she got to the second to last hurdle, Hamel was in third place.
But Hamel had a secret the rest of the field might not have known.
“I feel like I am able to finish strong,” Hamel said. “That is important for me because I don’t always get out as fast as I should.”
By the time Hamel reached the final hurdle, she had took the lead and sprinted across the line in first. Her time of 45.15 beat her previous best 46.05. Freshman Mary McKey of Edmond Memorial ran 45.69 to finish second.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell where you are in the race,” Hamel said of the 300 hurdles. “Because when we start staggered, you don’t know where everybody else is on the track, how soon they are going over their hurdle. It’s not until the final stretch that you see where they’re at and where you’re at.”
With her two victories, Hamel collected 20 of her team’s 22 total points. The other two came in the 4×800 relay, in which Mustang took sixth.
“It’s been exciting to be able to come out here and have some of my best times against like some really good competition,” Hamel said. “It was the perfect timing of being at state.”
As expected, the Edmond Memorial girls dominated the team title chase with 134 total points. Moore came in second with 66.
With four top three finishes to start her career, the expectations for Hamel will be enormous going into her junior season. But she is not shying away from them.
“It’s definitely mentally challenging to think about how I am going to do the next couple of years,” Hamel said. “But it’s also really motivating to see how much more I can improve.”