YUKON — It was a fitting end to the track and field season for Claremore’s Katelyn Alexander and Laynie Nichols. The duo, who had pushed each other on the cross country courses for the past two seasons, as well as the quarter-mile oval in track this spring, went out with a bang at the Class 5A State Track and Field Championships at Yukon High School last weekend.
Each already had a gold medal earlier in the state meet. Nichols won the 3200 meters on Friday, and Alexander had won the 800 meters earlier Saturday.
In their final lap of their final event — the 1600 meters — the two were side by side down the final 100 meters, and a country mile ahead of the rest of the field.
A fitting indeed.
The senior Alexander got the lean at the tape to edge the sophomore Nichols by 0.31 of a second. The numbers on their chests — 1 and 2 — told the story.
"I don't think we have any regrets going into that," Alexander said. "Two friends crossing the line almost at the same time — no better way to end it."
Alexander earned two golds on the day. Nichols won a gold and a silver. Each also won medals in relay events. But this race was more than the end of the season...it was the end of a two-year battle — a battle that made them both better.
The two have become not only running rivals — but friends — ever since Nichols stormed onto the scene from Justus Tiawah Junior High. She won the state cross country championship as a freshman and a sophomore. Both years, Alexander finished third.
The year before Nichols’ arrival, Alexander was part of the Lady Zebras’ state cross country team championship.
Nichols played soccer as a freshman instead of running track. Other than that short break, this dynamic duo has been side by side ever since.
It would be easy for these two to be at odds with their rivalry. But not these two.
"I think when you both work hard and you both acknowledge how hard each other worked, there's a respect that can't be broken, a friendship that grows and a respect that just grows stronger," Nichols said.
Their final ride, four laps around Yukon’s track and a hot, blistery afternoon, was dominant. The two started in the outer lanes, but quickly got the upper hand. Slowly and methodically, the pair distanced themselves from the pack. By the final turn, no other runners were in sight. It was just two red jerseys with “Claremore” on their chests. The sprint began 100 meters from the finish.
After the race, Alexander even gave Nichols a kiss on the forehead before heading to the medal stand. The two hugged. Mutual respect for their one-two finish and also for the ends of two years of competitions.
They are friends, and they are both winners.
Side by side to the end.
"Every single practice, every single race, we pull each other along," Alexander said.
"I'm happy," Nichols added. "I don't think I would change a thing."