By Bryce McKinnis
Elk City High School boys track’s sprint relays have been hot out of the blocks this spring. Cooper Patton, Matthew Thompson, Cooper Garbarino and Devin Simmons zoomed to a 43.09 time in the 400m relay at their own meet April 14. It trumped Elk City’s eighth-place time in the same event at state last year by over one second.
The same quartet recorded a 1:30.83 time in the 800m relay on March 23, just short of a second better than their seventh-place time last year. The Elks rank No. 1 in class 4A in both relays – ahead of Bethany, which claimed both state titles in 2022.
“It feels good to go to meets knowing that you have ran the fastest times in the state in 4A,” Garbarino said. “It gives us lots of confidence.”
“Our boys team has a chance to score more points at the state meet this year than an Elk City team has scored since winning the title in 2003,” Elk City head track coach Andy Peffer said. Garbarino, a junior, and Simmons, a senior and the anchor on both relays, are the only two returning sprinters from Elk City’s 2022 sprint relay teams after Marino Rivera-Noblitt and Rylie Miller graduated.
“This season, we recruited the fastest kids in our school to come run track. . . We have the four fastest kids in the school running those two relays,” Garbarino said.
Garbarino knew Patton and Thompson for their contributions to Elk City’s 11-2 state semifinal football team last fall. Though neither had ever run track, their speed was evident. Knowing his own talents as well as Simmons’ (whom Garbarino boasts is the best racer on the team and ranks No. 1 in 4A with a 22.32 200m time at the Oklahoma Baptist University Invitational), Garbarino knew Patton and Thompson would give the Elks their best chance to win state.
“We knew before the season that they [Patton and Thompson] would compete and perform in high-stress situations,” Garbarino said. “The coaches and I just kept preaching to them that if they came out for track, we could have a team that could win the state meet in the sprint relays.”
Patton and Thompson agreed to join Garbarino and Simmons, and their auspicious merger has validated Garbarino’s ambitions as the team has twice reset the Elk City 800m relay record this season. Moreso, the relay team has renewed school interest in the track team.
“I think the entire school is impressed with the relay team. Track definitely doesn’t have the spotlight in Elk City,” Garbarino said. “People in EC didn’t know they had a state-contending relay team until our home track meet. . . Seeing our peers and town come out and support us gives us a little bit of pressure to make sure we do our best.”
The relay team’s success is not just a result of recruiting the fastest athletes in the school and performing on meet days, Garbarino clarified. They worked hard to get to where they are.
“We have also changed our training from quantity reps to quality,” Garbarino said. “Our relay coach, [Shayne] Thornton, and our head coach, coach Peffer, are always making sure we are as healthy as can be throughout the season. We are always fine-tuning our handoffs, making them as efficient and smooth as possible. We know that we will have to run our best time at the state meet to win. Rankings don’t mean anything at state.”
With the defending state champion Bronchos nipping at Elk City’s heels, that statement rings especially true.
“Anything can happen in any given race,” Garbarino said. “We know we have to go out and perform to our standard, all 110%.”
Elk City’s qualifying meet will be held at Chisholm High School on Saturday, April 29. The state
meet is scheduled for May 5-6 at Ardmore High School.