Marvin McKenzie is determined to make some noise in his senior season with the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys track and field team.
McKenzie has qualified for the state meet three times and competed twice in the preliminaries. Now his ultimate goal is a berth in the state finals and the chance to earn a top-nine, all-state medal.
At the 2014 Class 3A state meet, the 1,600-meter relay with seniors Matt Chapp, Mike McCabe and McKenzie was 31st (3:29.46).
“You can’t talk if you don’t have anything and I’m not a state medaler,” McKenzie said. “I want it bad. That’s all I can say. Nothing’s guaranteed. You’re going to have to work your hardest if you want to go (to state) and I want to come back with something this time.”
This spring, McKenzie and several seniors certainly will have a say in the Bulldogs’ success. On Saturday, four of them set a school record in the 400-meter relay at R-B’s 48th annual Gary Johnson Bulldog Relays at Morton.
Chapp, McCabe, Otis Dortch and McKenzie won in 43.65 seconds fully automatic time to break the 43.81 FAT-converted mark set last year by Chapp, McCabe, McKenzie and current sophomore Jhalen Williams.
“What was kind of nice to see was they were disappointed with their time. They know what they’re capable of and they told me before I told them what they can improve,” RBHS coach Tim Olson said.
“I think for all three sprint relays, depending on how things go, (state) is definitely an attainable goal. So many things play into it. I trust if guys stay healthy and work hard, it’s within their reach.”
The sprinters’ bond is stronger than ever. Saturday’s 1,600 relay with Chapp, junior Zach Witken, McKenzie and McCabe was second (3:30.60).
At 3A state in 2013, the 800 relay with Chapp, Witken, McCabe and Dortch was 21st (1:35.75) and the 1,600 relay with Chapp was 25th (3:37.20). Witken and senior Jeremiah Clarkson were 2014 state alternates.
They’re also setting the tone for a team that is roughly two-thirds sophomores and freshmen.
“Freshman year, we didn’t really have a lot of sprinters. We kind of just found each other and created a little tight-knit group and we’ve kind of carried that on since,” Chapp said. “The main thing we learned was leadership from (past seniors). I think that’ll take us to the finals. We have enough talent. It’s just the leadership now.”
McKenzie is enjoying his best season. In his individual events Saturday, he won long jump (19 feet-5 inches) and was third in the 100 (11.20).
Performing well the past two seasons despite injuries, McKenzie is his healthiest since 2012, when he went to the 2A state meet in the 400 (53.68, 28th) and 1,600 relay (3:31.61, 27th) and set numerous freshman school records.
McKenzie’s hamstring issues could not keep him from rising to the occasion. After sectionals as a sophomore, it was actually a fluke ankle injury in gym class that sidelined him for the state prelims.
“I ran with an injured hamstring (also in 2014). That’s nothing new,” McKenzie said. “I’ve had injuries in both hamstrings. (But) I took care of it.”
This is the first time since freshman year that McKenzie has been able to compete consistently in long jump. He recently jumped a lifetime-best 20-8 after a 20-7 indoors.
“It’s something we’re trying to work him back into,” Olson said. “He’s a talented kid where we’ll have fun and difficult decisions to make as far as what events to put him in (at sectionals) to get him to state.”