Track & field: Holyoke girls 4x100 relay team wins WMass title, eyes historic trip to Nationals

Holyoke’s Yasani Thompson runs  the 200-meter dash during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Holyoke’s Yasani Thompson runs  the 200-meter dash during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 05-18-2024 7:44 PM

AGAWAM – For the first time in school history, Holyoke has qualified a girls relay for Nike Outdoor Nationals.

The girls 4x100-meter relay qualified earlier this season, and on Saturday, they won the Western Mass. Division 1 title at the Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The relay team of senior Veronica Colon, junior Kayshaly Garcia, sophomore Yasani Thompson and freshman Kyra Lippman are hosting a GoFundMe to raise funds so they can make the trip to Eugene, Oregon June 12-15. 

After two days of fundraising, they received $2,000 in donations. By the next morning, it was $4,000, and by dinner time, it was $5,000. Five days in, they’re at $9,000. As of Saturday, 185 people had donated amounts ranging from $20 to $250, and the Purple Knights feel like their community has their backs.

“We have a lot of support around,” Colon said. “We’re making sure we’re keeping the community within us along with our journey.”

On Saturday, Holyoke took the title in the 4x100 relay and broke the school record they had set earlier this year with a time of 50.34 seconds, more than half a second faster than second-place Amherst.

Each relay runner hails from a different grade, and they each feel like they add their own style to their leg.

Colon starts it off.

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“I pretty much set the tone,” Colon said. “Once I hear the gun, it’s lock in. I have the most disgusting face. When you see me, I’m so lovey, but when I’m on that track I don’t have friends. I’m just here to devour.”

Garcia is next.

“I see V coming and I knew she was in her element,” Garcia said. “So I took the baton and get that energy passed through and I just knew I had to get the job done.”

Lippman takes the third leg.

“When K gives the baton to me, I kind of just know I have to just push myself the hardest and make sure I have that full speed,” Lippman said. “I hug the curve so I know that I can get that lead and make sure we stay in front, and when I get to Yasani, I just make sure that (the baton) is at a good angle and it’s perfect timing.”

Then, Thompson brings up the anchor.

“When Kyra hands me the baton,” Thompson said, “I’m making sure that I’m focusing my breathing, keeping straight and not worrying about what’s behind me and crossing the finish line getting our girls into first.”

The relay found out they made nationals at a practice late in the season, and they’ve been working double-time to raise the funds and make sure all the necessary boxes are checked so they can travel to Eugene.

“When we found out, we literally started like ‘boom, now is our crunch time, we’ve got to try as hard as we can,’” Garcia said. “We’ve just been working. Anything we can do to reach our goal, because we’ve worked hard for it.” 

The group chat between the four relay runners is active throughout the day as they provide each other with updates on their fundraising. They’ve been meeting daily to make sure they follow all the right steps. And they say they feel a buzz from teachers, classmates and friends in the Holyoke community with each passing day.

Colon, Garcia, Lippman and Thompson feel like they can set a new standard for both Purple Knights track and support for the sport in the community after turning the unthinkable into a reality.

“We’re more excited to see how Holyoke is backing us,” Colon said. “Holyoke’s never thought we could get to this level until we have.”

In addition to the GoFundMe, Holyoke’s relay is considering making T-shirts or running a car wash or bake sale, as well as taking sponsorships from people or businesses in the Holyoke community.

“It doesn’t even have to be specifically donations,” Colon said. “Just people to support. The first thing we say with the GoFundMe is legit, if you cannot donate, just spread it.”