Chandler’s fearsome foursome of sprinters have overcome obstacles to become the state record holders in the 4×400 meter relay.
The lead off dealt with flat feet and the physical and mental blows of having fractures in both of her feet as well as being ineligible to compete her sophomore year.
Second leg was adopted as a baby and started running at age 6 for the Otter Pops.
Third leg is a 5-foot-1 freshman who finds her outlet performing hip-hop dance numbers.
The anchor is the legendary coach’s granddaugther who has her mom’s model looks and an insatiable desire to be the fastest.
Say hello to the A Team – Chandler’s 4×400-meter relay team that keeps breaking state records without looking back.
They’ll try to take down the girls state record one more time on Saturday night in the Division I track and field championships’ final event at Mesa Community College.
By then, Chandler hopes to have clinched its 11th state championship in 12 years with one of the greatest teams coach Eric Richardson has ever assembled.
Senior LaMeyah Charlton, junior Anna Foreman, freshman Armani Harris and senior Anaya Bailey combined in April to run 3 minutes, 46.14 seconds at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational.
Before this season, no girls team in Arizona high school history ran faster than 3:50.
But three times already this season, Chandler has broken 3:50.
They did it at Phoenix Brophy, at Chandler and at Arcadia. Only in the Chandler Rotary did they do it without the lead-off leg, Charlton, who had to bow out after suffering a slight hamstring injury in the 800 earlier in the meet. Sophomore Morgan Foster subbed in and Chandler ran 3:47.98. Foster, who set a state record in the 800 her freshman year, joined Charlton and Foreman and Gabrielle Enns at Arcadia to help Chandler become the nation’s fastest 8×800 relay team at 9:07.38. That team is now ranked seventh nationally.
“The last time we ran at Arcadia is pretty much the way we like to run it,” Richardson said about his 4×400 relay team, “With LaMeyah leading off to Anna, to Armani, to Anyaya.
“If everybody’s fresh and nobody is hurt, I’m sure they’re going to want to make another run at it. It’s going to be tough, a two-day competition, and they’re all loaded in their (individual) events. The win is the most important thing. If they can get another record, that’s great, too.”
Each has her own backstory that fueled the record:
Charlton could only watch helplessly two years ago when Chandler’s streak of nine consecutive state championships ended, partly due to a dropped baton.
Charlton was ineligible as as sophomore because of the Arizona Interscholastic Association transfer rule, transferring from Phoenix Desert Vista. On top of that, she was trying to heal stress fractures in both feet.
She overcompensated on one injured foot, cause the other foot to develop a fracture.
This year, she was bothered by a hamstring injury suffered in the 800 meters at the Chandler Rotary that knocked her out of the 4×400 relay.
Dealing with having flat feet growing up, Charlton has found a way to go fast, thanks to her father, who is a track coach.
“It’s getting corrected now, because I wear my orthotics every day.”
This year, she picked up the 300 hurdles. Her father was a college hurdler. She said early in her youth track club career, she tried hurdles, “but I used to fall once every race.”
Returning to the event this year, she has been electrifying, posting a 300 hurdles best time of 43.22 seconds, which ranks second in the state.
“Usually, when I have an injury, I try to run through it,” Charlton said. “That was the mentality my dad raised me with. I don’t worry about getting injured again.”
Foreman built her conditioning by focusing on the 800 this year. Her best is 2:16.65. She ran a sub-56-second 400 her freshman year, but figures to set a PR in that event Saturday. Her best 400 time this year is 56.17.
She was adopted as a baby from Georgia. When she was 6, she raced her brother, who is the same age, in the backyard. She would beat him, and her parents asked if she wanted to join a running club.
“I was like, ‘OK, you get Otter Pops,’ ” Foreman said.
Then, one day, before her seventh birthday, her dad said he had a surprise for her as they were driving down the road.
“He asked me to guess,” she said. “I said, ‘OK, Disneyland?’ He said, ‘We’re going to sign you up for a track club, the Arizona Cheetahs.’
“It was amazing. All these friends I have is from running track with the Cheetahs since I was 7 years old.”
This petite freshman was a hip-hop dancer before turning to club track before she was 10.
“My mom did hip-hop dance,” Harris said. “Then my mom put me in track, and since then I’ve continued with track.”
She still performs in dance, as recently as a Martin Luther King Day march in January.
It’s her outlet, something that helps her relax and take a break from running sprints.
She jokes that her older teammates “treat me weird,” but “most of the time they really help me out,” she added, “and make sure I’m not nervous.”
Harris joined Charlton’s little sister, Jayde, a freshman at Chandler, on a national championship 4×400 relay team as part of the Do Right Track Club. Jayde has run a faster 400 time than LaMeyah this season at 56.69. LaMeyah’s best 400 is 56.71. Harris has run 56.61.
Jayde and Harris are the two of fastest freshmen in the state, along with Phoenix North Canyon’s Jadyn Mays. Mays (11.88 seconds), Jayde Charlton (12.02) and Harris (12.05) rank in the top six for girls in the state in the 100 dash.
“We put on the Turn Up music, more hype before meets,” Harris said. “We always have confidence.”
When she was 6, she was running with her grandfather’s high school sprinters at Chandler.
“He pushes me like everyone,” she says. “But at the end of the day, I’m still his granddaughter.”
Bailey’s mother, Share, never ran for her father. “She’s always been a girlie girl,” Bailey said. Richardson said that his daughter has done professional modeling.
Bailey has always gravitated to the track at a young age with her grandfather’s guidance and her mom’s critiques.
“She keeps it real,” Bailey said. “She doesn’t sugarcoat anything. That that helps me. I’d rather her not sugarcoat it and just tell me like it is so I can be better.”
Bailey is the only one of the Chandler Fab Four to break 56 seconds this season. She has run 55.52 seconds, ranking second behind Gilbert Highland senior Alena Ellsworth (54.68). Bailey ranks first in the state in the 100 at 11.79, a time she turned in Wednesday during the Division I state track preliminaries. Her 200 time of 24.07 also ranks first in the state.
“I knew that track was in my blood,” Bailey said. “I knew I wanted to make this my career.”
Division I, II, III, IV state track and field championships
When: Friday, Saturday. Field events Friday at 11:30 a.m. Field events Saturday at 1 p.m. Running events Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: Mesa Community College, 1833 W Southern Ave.
Turner Washington, Canyon del Oro, shot put, discus
Tyson Jones, Goodyear Desert Edge, shot put, discus
Trey Johnson, Tolleson, sprints, hurdles
Tyrees Moulton, Phoenix North Canyon, 400 meters
Elijah Mason, Phoenix Desert Vista, discus
Cole Riddle, Surprise Valley Vista, pole vault
Morgan Foster, Chandler, 800 meters, 4×800 relay
Anaya Bailey, Chandler, 100, 200, 400, 4×400 relay
Allie Schadler, Rio Rico, 800, 1600, 3200
Kayleigh Conlon, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, shot put, discus
Jadyn Mays, North Canyon, 100, 200, long jump
Alena Ellsworth, Gilbert Highland, 800
LaMeyah Charlton, Chandler, 300 hurdles, 4×400 relay