Schoolboy runners team up again for Panthers relay title

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Usually, the dream disappears shortly after elementary school ends.

You and your friends are part of a good team. After winning another meet you talk about winning a championship at the nearby high school.

But things change in high school. Kids move or transfer, lose interest in a sport and run up against more talented opponents.

This spring, though the schoolboy dreams of four distance runners from Peoria Elementary School were realized. Those four — Lahad Adehim, Bak Reyak, Mabior Reyak and Kody Romero — are Peoria High School’s Division III champion 4×800-meter relay.

“We all were on the cross country team together. We always used to compete with each other in practice or at turkey trots,” Adehim said. “I had a feeling this was going to happen. When the four of us were in elementary we would always get the top four or five places.”

Peoria High School 4×800-meter relay team celebrates winning the Division III title in May. Team members are. from left, Lahad Adehim, Bak Reyak, Maibor Reyak and Kody Romero. [Submitted Photo]
The bonds between Adehim and the Reyak brothers go back even further, growing up a couple houses apart. Mabior Reyak said now that all three were upperclassmen and Romero had improved in his sophomore year, the team expected to win state.

The Panthers entered the meet May 5-6 at Mesa Community College with the fourth best time, behind Ganado, Combs and Page. But in the finals the Panthers rolled to a title, finishing at 8.20.97 and beating Combs by more than three seconds.

Distance coach Evon Chavez said this state performance was the opposite in recent years, where she had brought a highly ranked 4×800 team to state only to see it underperform in the finals.

“I wanted to win it for Coach Chavez, end the state championship drought. For a gift, I wanted to bring her a state championship before I left,” Mabior Reyak said.

Reyak was the only senior staring at his last chance for a gold medal. Bak Reyak and Adehim are juniors and Romero is a sophomore.

Coach Chavez said she hoped this team could send Reyak out on a winning note. When he told her he wanted to run in college, she modified his schedule a bit.

“We trained through a couple track meets where he didn’t compete. Instead I was training him because I wanted him to get that time that I knew coaches would need to recruit him,” Coach Chavez said. “I’m going to miss him. He’s our princess in the group.”

It worked, as Reyak has signed with Paradise Valley Community College. After he gets his associates degree, he wants to study until he earns a master’s degree in financial management.

The coach said she started to think a title was possible early this year as Romero continued to drop time from last year. The team gained confidence during the Gaucho Relays March 10 at GCC, beating future Division II champion Shadow Ridge.

“When we raced Shadow Ridge it was a tough race but we still came back. Before that, we didn’t have someone to push us through,” Bak Reybak said.

A pattern emerged for the rest of the season. Peoria did not run its ‘A’ team much in the event.

But every time the Panthers did, they won.

“It means a lot because we knew we were going to come in and do good this year, but I didn’t know for sure we would win a championship,” Romero said.

It helps when a team starts with the second and third place finishers in the division. That is how Adehim and Maibor Reyak finished in the 800, behind only Gamar Garem of Tucson Amphitheater.

That duo is the Panthers’ middle distance squad, concentrating on the 400 and 800. Bak Reyak and Romero focus on the 800 and 1,600.

Coach Chavez said their times make Adehim the natural choice for anchor. However, he always runs second because he runs faster when he gets to catch people.

“(Lahad) wrote me the best letter last year. He wrote I only run track because I like you. I hate running,” Coach Chavez said.

Adehim is probably better known as the best basketball player at the school. But he, Bak Reybak and Romero should form the nucleus of another championship contending relay next year.

Coach Chavez said some younger runners, especially junior David Garcia, could step up next year.

Unlike his neighbor, Bak Reyak said he has a passion for running and said it is the only sport he is good at.

“I played basketball and I was horrible at it. I played soccer and was horrible at it, same with football,” he said.

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