Keller breaks 35-year-old track record at invitational


By Shelby Haygood
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(Photo courtesy of Leah Keller (12)) Leah Keller (12) pushing her limits while racing in the Ruby Tuesday/Cal Track Invitational’s 400- meter dash at Punahou schools on March 26.

For the first time in 35 years, the MHS girls 400-meter dash school track record was broken, as schools from across the state competed at the Ruby Tuesday/Cal Track Invitational on March 26. The record, initially set in 1981 by alumna Sandy Horner, was broken by Senior Leah Keller with a time of 59.92 seconds. Keller was only a few seconds short of first place and gained fourth in the 400-meter dash.

“It was really cool to find out that I broke a 35-year-old record. One of the things I was currently struggling with was believing in myself, so breaking the record gave me the confidence and reassurance that I needed to do it again,” said Keller.

Both the stamina and endurance that track requires can be overwhelming, but unlike some, Keller accepts the challenge. “I kind of got into track on my own. In elementary school, the only school sport available was cross country and track. So I tried it out and fell in love with the sport,” Keller said. “I have been doing track at MHS since I was a freshman. My old teammates as well as current teammates motivate me to continue on with track and try my hardest in every event. They all help to create a supportive and addictive atmosphere that makes me excited to go to all the practices and meets.”

The hard work and dedication Keller put in these past four seasons has paid off, shown in her new record. Coach Dane Matsunaga said, “(Keller) is an extremely hard worker. She is very ritualistic in her preparation. She has a specific routine that she does that helps her get in the right frame of mind to compete at the highest level. She is also one that will always rise to the occasion, performing her best at the biggest meets or competitions.” Keller’s teammate, Sophomore Imani Johnson, added, “When (Keller) is around the team she always keeps everyone positive. Though she has her own race to focus on, she does everything in her power to help everyone else out. (Keller) is the type of person to put others before herself. She is a very humble and supportive person. She’s always cheering our teammates on and congratulating them after their races.”

Though Keller has had her moments of disappointment, she always comes out afloat. “A (couple of) weeks ago after a meet, (Keller)  was not satisfied with her performances. I sat with her and reflected on many things. This (conversation) gave me a better insight on some things she needed from me as a coach. With some changes and the support of her family and teammates, she was able to break that record. I was proud of her, as she overcame a huge psychological battle with herself,” Matsunaga said.

With the upcoming Oahu Interscholastic Association Championships on April 28, the MHS girls track team is working hard to reduce their times. Win or lose, the camaraderie amongst the girls track team is something that Keller and her graduating teammates will forever remember in the years to come.