ROCKTON - Let's have a frank and honest conversation about something.
It's about a race that has a...well, a terrible reputation. It's the race that's said to invoke the most pain, one that has competitors collapsing in a heap after its complete, mostly thankful that it's over.
It's a race called the 800-meter dash, and there are four Hononegah girls more than willing to subject themselves to such torture on a regular basis.
They are so accomplished in taming the beast that they are headed to Charleston, Ill., for Friday's IHSA Class 3A state track meet.
The 4x800 relay team will be making its second straight trip down state. Just like last year, seniors Taylor Frommer, Kaela Stewart and Jordan Tresemer will be on the squad. This season, they are joined by junior Hannah Pickard. Last season, Pickard was on pace to be a member of the state-qualifying squad before getting injured shortly before the NIC-10 conference meet.
Frommer, who holds the school record for the 1600 and missed qualifying in that event by less than a second this year, is the team's anchor.
And yes, she enjoys running the 800.
"It's basically a two-lap sprint," Frommer said. "It makes me feel really strong compared to other races. And I feel like it takes a special type of person to be able to run that race well. Nobody else knows the pain of running the 800 like your teammates in the 4x8 relay."
Frommer, who will run for the University of Illinois-Chicago next year, is one of the most decorated distance runners in school history, having made multiple appearances at state in both cross country and track.
Having to run just two laps instead of four or eight could be considered an advantage.
"I think it does make it a little easier, only having to run twice around," Frommer said. "Just knowing that you have to cut it in half is nice, and I really like the speed aspect of it."
Frommer believes The experience of being at the state meet will be beneficial, "Last year was our first year all together, so we didn't know really what t think," Frommer said. "This year, we know what our goal is, and that's to get the school record. And we are definitely faster than last year, so we stack up a little better than we did."
Of the 26 teams that qualified for the race, the Indians stack up 21st with a seed time of 9:39.08, just six seconds from the school record. They are also 10 seconds away from being in the top 10, another realistic goal for the foursome to achieve.
Tresemer went down state as an alternate her freshman year, then qualified in each of her past three years.
"My sophomore year, I remember being so nervous," Tresemer said. "There was a huge rush and a lot of adrenaline. Now I treat it like any other meet. It's a huge deal, but you have to run it the same. As a sophomore, I looked around and thought about how fast everyone else was. Now, I realize that we're fast, too."
As the first runner out of the chute, Stewart sets the tone for the team. It's something she did very well as the team won its sectional meet in Antioch.
"We were not really expecting to win it," Stewart said. "All week, we were talking about just finishing second and moving on. We weren't sure what the sectional would look like, so we were hoping for the best. I knew that if I went out in first, I would keep adding to the lead. I went out with confidence, because I really wanted to win that race."
The group is expected to run around 12:45 on Friday. One more time, twice around, taming the beast and feeling the pain.