Aiken High School has a good tradition of producing quality track & field athletes. This year’s no exception, as the Hornets have produced some of the top female performers in Region 5-AAAA.

Among the Aiken standouts who performed well at the recent region meet at Irmo High School were the members of the girls’ 4x800 relay team. They got their teammates off to a good start with a win in the relay – breaking the school record by a whopping 10 seconds.

“It’s one of the hardest races,” said Frelicia Tucker, who’s joined on the relay team by her sister Fredericka Tucker, Sophie Nance and Ashbrook Gwinn. “You have to push to the end.”

The race breaks down with each runner making two trips around the regulation-size track. There are different approaches for each runner, but Frelicia said her goal is to monitor the lead in the first lap, then go all out in the second to put her team in the best position for a victory.

Gwinn, a state champion in cross-country who’ll run for Boston College next year, has a slightly different approach. She said there’s always an idea of how you want to run, but she doesn’t always follow it.

“I don’t always go with the gameplan,” Gwinn said. “I just run my hardest.”

While the full-throttle strategy paid off in a big way at the region meet, the Hornets couldn’t repeat the successful formula in the State Qualifying meet. They missed out on a chance to run in the state championship which will be contested at Spring Valley High School on Saturday.

Gwinn and Frelicia, just a freshman, will compete in individual events on Saturday, with the former the top qualifier in the 1,600 while the latter enters 400 hurdles with the fourth-best time in South Carolina. It speaks to the diversity of running styles among the four girls on the relay team and how it can pay off when they mesh.

Gwinn is an excellent distance runner but has the speed to duel with the best. Frelicia possesses power, which is essential in a jumping race. Fredericka is an explosive runner, who also competes in the 400 and 4x400. Nance is an all-around athlete who was one of the top players on the girls’ basketball team and a top finisher in cross-country.

“We’re all really versatile runners,” said Nance, a junior. “We’re versatile athletes.”

They’re also good friends – on the track, in school and socially. Each said that camaraderie has had a positive effect on their running.

“We have a bond,” Fredericka, a freshman, said. “Everybody wants the same thing.”

Gwinn echoed that sentiment, saying, “We love each other. It’s fun to run together, and the relays are so much fun.”

Other Aiken track & field athletes who had strong showings at the region meet include Alexis Brown (100 meters), Savannah Coleman (pole vault), Asia Johnson and Breelyn Price both qualified in the shot put and discus, Adrienne Wilson (discus). Some boys who did well included Marquis Adams (400) and Joseph Bettis (shot put).

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.