There's a reason why young members of the Rock Falls girls track team don't forget their gear, or a baton for a relay, or anything else needed to perform at a meet.
The "Mother Hen" is watching.
That's the nickname head coach Chris Lacy has bestowed upon senior sprinter Shasta Day, a 4-year mainstay for the Rockets. At meets, when the public address announcer says an event is coming up, she makes sure her teammates, especially some wide-eyed freshmen, report on time and ready to rock.
"I'm so focused on just me, so it's a new atmosphere, taking care of the other kids," Day said. "Actually, I kind of like it."
Lacy noted he's had many nicknames for Day over the years, but likes this one the best because it's one she grew into.
"We joke with her, 'How old are you now, 23?'" Lacy said, "because she's been on the scene for so long now."
Relays are always stressed at Rock Falls, and Day has been a fixture in the sprint relays all 4 years. She won NCIC championships in the 400 and 800 relays as a freshman and a sophomore, as well as a 100-meter title individually as a sophomore.
A year ago, when the Rockets were new members of the Big Northern Conference, she doubled up in the 100 and 200 dashes. She came up empty at the sectional meet, however, and decided to step up her training.
At the beginning of her junior year, she ran cross country for the first time, to build up her endurance. She admitted she was severely lacking in that department.
"I had little endurance," Day said, "and the 200 seemed impossible to me."
Last summer, she received permission from Rock Falls boys track coach Eric Bontz to go through summer workouts with boys track team members. She ran 100-meter sprints while carrying weights. She endured endless pushups, chinups and weightlifting sessions.
She ran cross country again this past fall, and added an abs workout under the guidance of Rock Falls cross country coach Mark Truesdell to strengthen her core.
"I stuck with it," Day said, "and I think that helped me out a lot. I can feel that I'm a lot stronger."
That led Lacy to expand her boundaries a bit this season. He had has top sprinter run a few legs on the 1,600 relay in some meets, just to see how she'd do.
"I didn't like it," Day said with a smirk. "That was mean."
"She's incredibly talented," Lacy said, "but every year there's a ton of talented kids. How many of them want to work and get better their sophomore year, and better their junior year? Shasta's done a great job in the weight room, and she shows up every day to work. Her work ethic is unrivaled."
The work is paying dividends. She repeated as Big Northern champ in the 100 and 200 dashes at Genoa on Monday, and now has her sights set on the Class 2A Burlington Central Sectional on Friday. She ran poorly and was overwhelmed as a junior competing at the sectional, but isn't planning on a repeat performance.
"I think I just got a little bit ahead of myself last year," Day said. "This year, I'm confident because I've put in 10 times more work than I did in the past."
One thing Lacy hasn't done is sit down with Day for pep talks. They both know what happened last year, but that's in the past, and each is focused on what lies ahead in the next 10 days.
"It all revolves around strength," Lacy said, "and what she's done mentally to prepare herself to not accept being second, and not accept ending the way she doesn't want this to end."
School: Rock Falls
FYI: Won 100 and 200 dashes at Big Northern Conference track meet as junior and senior. ... Member of NCIC sprint relay champions as underclassman. ...