When senior sprinter Cassandra Blau envisioned her final season in a Durango High School track and field uniform, she first imagined the preparation that went into it.
“I love race day and it’s fun, but I think that putting in the work and seeing that things can come of it is the most rewarding part,” Blau said at practice Monday.
The sprinter took initiative and revamped the indoor track and field team in winter. She collaborated with coaches, got teammates involved and even set up the itinerary, from booking hotels to collecting money to pay for race fees. Durango competed in two events in Albuquerque, and Blau said it was beneficial for those that put in the work.
“I talked to a lot of coaches who have helped out in a variety of ways and just ran with it,” Blau said. “I had been working out since last summer. I had done my own stuff for fall and part of winter, but when we were together, the outdoor season felt a lot closer than when I was just on my own. The first outdoor meet, I think it helped some of those kids feel a little less rusty going into it just because they had been getting ready all winter and had two indoor meets already under their belts.
“For me, I just felt that I was ready to go and came out with some quick times for that first meet of the season and have been trying to improve since then.”
Blau has set new personal records as of late in the 100-meter dash (12.73 seconds) and the 200 (26.43), both of which came at the Mullen Invitational two weeks ago.
She also helped set the best relay time of the year for the 4x200 team with a 1:48.48 at the Pine River Invitational last weekend in Bayfield.
Head coach Johnny Bertrand believes Blau’s hard work during the offseason has helped push her times to a record low.
“Every time she posts a new PR, it’s because of the work she puts in, for sure,” Bertrand said. “She’s one of those kids where you wish that everybody would work as hard as her. She’s the hardest-working kid on the team.
“We switched our training program this year to where we do a lot of short sprints as fast as we can and are going full speed, and the workouts are a lot shorter and we do a lot less. When we first started, she’d come up to me and say, ‘Coach, I need to run more. I need to work harder, this is too easy.’ This is the kind of workload she’s used to doing.”
Her workload during the meets has also increased. She’s currently involved in five events but is equally focused on every one as the season comes to a close.
“It’s been crazy and has been such a journey,” Blau said. “My times have decreased over the years even though I am running in more events. It’s all accumulating to this point of the year and, as we get toward the end of the season, I want to enjoy it, but I also want to perform well, and I think I can.”
Before Blau takes off from the starting blocks, she said she gathers herself and focuses on what is directly in front of her.
“I get really stressed before I run, but as I do my warm-up, I calm down,” Blau said. “As I’m standing in front of my block, I just take a deep breath and center myself just on that breath and just on the finish line in front of me. I tune everything else out.”
Blau, daughter of David and Nattalie Blau, is looking forward to competing on her home track one final time at the Ron Keller Invitational on Saturday at DHS. Field events will begin at 10 a.m., and running will start at 11 a.m.
“Last year, the meet was canceled, so it’ll be good to compete here again,” Blau said. “It’s nice to be competing on the track you practice on, so I’m hopeful to have good times for the relays and individual events.”
Bertrand believes the best for Blau is yet to come, and that could be on display for the home fans this weekend.
“The way she’s working right now, it’s really impressive to see,” Bertrand said. “Even after all of her events, I’m not worried about her being tired at the end of the meet because she’s so conditioned and strong, and most of it is because she’s a hard worker.
“I think her times will get better this weekend and only improve from here.”