BATH — At its simplest, the 1,600-meter race is repetition. Four laps around a 400-meter track. Unlike a cross country race, the view is deja vu. Oh look, the concession stand. Oh, look, the bleachers. Oh, look, the concession stand again.

You know what else is consistent? The pain. It happens every time. Cold weather or warm. Wet or dry. The best 1,600 runners know it’s coming. It could feel like a punch to the gut. Or a knife in the side of the abdomen. Or a blowtorch to the hamstring.

If you’re racing the 1,600, it’s going to hurt. How are you going to handle that? Your reaction to the pain is going to affect your spot on the podium. Effort takes focus, and focus takes blocking out that voice that screams “SLOW DOWN” with each strep.

Mt. Blue’s Kahryn Cullenberg runs the 1,600 meter race during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B meet Saturday at McMann Field in Bath. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“Around the third lap, when you start getting pretty tired. There’s still a whole other lap or two. I have to focus there so I don’t slow down,” Mount View’s Sage Pound said.

Saturday afternoon at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference track and field championships, Pound won the Class B girls 1,600 title. Pound ran the race in 5:18.38, besting Kahryn Cullenburg of Mt. Blue by about 2 seconds. When the pain hit, Pound simplified everything. There’s a lap to finish, she told herself.

“I focus on finishing the third lap, then I think about finishing the other lap,” Pound said.

When the pain started to set in for Mt. Ararat’s Lisandro Berry-Gaviria, who won the Class A boys race in 4:26.14, he fought it off  by making the other runners feel it more. To Berry-Gaviria, the 1,600 is more a mental exercise than a physical one.

“A lot of times people fall off in the third 400. If you can try to make a move in third 400, you can try to break them mentally,” Berry-Gaviria said.

Brunswick’s Will Shaughnessy hung with Berry-Gaviria for just over half the race. Around 1,000 meters in, Berry-Gaviria, the defending conference and Class A state champion, took all the drama from the race and pulled away. He beat Shaughnessy by 7 seconds.

“I kind of just wanted to see how the race would play out. I didn’t expect Will to take it out so hard. Once he took it out, I knew I’d have to make my move somewhere around the third lap,” Berry-Gaviria said.

There was less drama in the Class A girls race, where Edward Little’s Jillian Richardson pulled away from the pack early, built a 10-second lead by the 800-meter mark, and held it the rest of the way. The Class B boys race featured a tight pack for most of the race, before Lincoln teammates Jarrett Gulden and Samuel Ross and Mt. Blue’s Jesse Dalton pulled away. With a lap to go, Dalton took a brief lead before the Lincoln duo overtook him, with Gulden under a second better than Ross for the win.

Over the first 800 meters of the Class B girls race, Pound and Cullenberg traded the lead. With 400 meters to go, they were side by side, and Cullenberg pulled slightly ahead. Pound remembered her focus and blocked out the voice begging her to slow down.

“I’ve been practicing on making sure I get my fourth lap faster, because last year that was a problem. I got passed on the fourth lap. I tried to stay behind her and beat her on the sprint,” Pound said.

Saturday’s KVAC meet, run under warm and sunny conditions, was a pleasant departure from most of the season. It’s been meets run in the cold and wet, because it’s not far from the truth to say every day this spring has been cold and wet. Saturday was the opposite though, and Pound welcomed it.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. There was a breeze while we were running,” she said.

Good weather makes the pain more tolerable, as does knowing you’ve run a good race. It makes the reasons an athlete does this seem obvious.

“I just really like running,” Pound said. “It makes me feel free.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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