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041219-spt-RaeynGallegos

Natrona County's Raeyn Gallegos competes in the girls 100-meter dash during the Trojan Invitational on April 5 at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper.

This season has served as a sort of breakout for Natrona County senior Raeyn Gallegos. She swept all four of her events at the team’s host invitational just under a month ago and returned to compete at the Trojan Invitational last week, where she once again finished atop the podium, albeit with a disappointing triple jump mark.

She’s done it all with a rejuvenated love for track. She just needed to take a year off to rediscover how much she enjoys it.

“I got busy and I was sort of just out of it,” she said. “But now I’m back and I’m ready to race.”

Gallegos departed track with a gold medal from the Fillies’ winning 4x800 relay team at the 2017 state meet but was frustrated by her other results. She earned bronze as part of the 4x100 relay team, but individually she finished seventh in the long jump and 16th in the triple jump. For most sophomores, that is a solid foundation on which to build. For Gallegos, she needed to step away.

She jumped back in for the indoor season, picking up where she left off. Despite not breaking through in any of the sprints, she ran on three of the Fillies’ placing relay teams and was seventh in the long jump with a personal-best mark in the state finals.

And while this outdoor track season has given her a limited sample serving so far, she has five first-place finishes and one silver to add to her shelf.

“Indoor was a great prepper for outdoor,” Gallegos said. “I took that year off and now I’m back here, feeling great.”

Her 100-meter time at the Trojan Track Invite, a blistering 12.69 seconds, was just three one-hundredths of a second off champion Madison Chance of 3A Lander.

And yet, after digesting that result, Gallegos still pinpointed what she could have gone different. Her closing speed was good enough to shrink the gap between herself and Chance but she needed a better start.

“It felt good towards the end, but in the very beginning I didn’t quite push out hard enough,” Gallegos said. “Overall, for not running it in two years, it felt pretty good.”

Following that opening sprint she juggled running her sprints and the triple jump. She set aside her triple jump mark, which may have been affected by her leg of the preceding 4x100 relay, which she considered a warm-up for her only field event.

Most high school track athletes in Wyoming typically have to compete in multiple events. And sometimes those events run concurrent to each other. It’s a problem that inevitably takes focus and help of coaches. Gallegos isn’t unfamiliar with that circumstance and she didn’t let her year away from the track interfere with her mindset.

“I get a more intense warm-up but in a shorter time so I don’t tire myself out,” she said. “By the time I hit the 4x100 I should be warmed-up for the triple and then the 4x400 is everything I’ve got left.”

Perhaps there wasn’t a lot left in the tank by that point and that’s why Gallegos, the anchor leg for teammates Breonna Beckley, Taylor Chool and Reagan Lake, finished fifth in the 4x400 relay with a cumulative time of 4:33.33. Despite the placement, she seemed pleased with the time. Plus, she’s just happy to be back with her teammates after a year apart.

Gallegos jumped back into the team fold this spring and has ran the anchor leg of the winning 4x100 relay team twice, recently at the Trojan Invitational along with Kayla Stibley, Parker Mooren and Chool. So far it’s been a rewarding reunion with her fellow Fillies.

“I love just the feeling of being in such a close-knit team and we all push each other to the max,” she said. “Even after taking a year off you can quickly get back to where you were with how we train and stuff like that.”

With that year away now a distant memory, Gallegos has enjoyed being back in her comfort zone and the results that have followed.

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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