GARY | The LakeShore Jets 400 relay team is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
That's what makes the foursome of Darius Barnes, Carlton Sims, Daronte Buggs and Barrie Wesby so great, according to LakeShore coach Joe Britt.
"Usually, an AAU champion relay team is put together with individual sprint champions and runners-up ... like a stacked all-star team," Britt said. "That wasn't the case with these guys."
In the 15-16 boys division at the AAU Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships held July 29-Aug. 3 at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., Barnes, Sims, Buggs and Wesby -- in that order -- took first place with a time of 42.98 seconds.
"Up to that point in the meet, none of those boys had won or medaled in their individual events," Britt said, "but they didn't let that get them down and prevent them from coming together as a team."
Though the relay required all of the boys to run fast, each defined their specific role in the race.
"My job is to close the stagger," said starter Barnes of catching the outer-lane runners.
"My job is to jump out in front after the stagger is closed," said second-stage runner Sims.
"Then I have to maintain that lead," third-man Buggs said.
Then, of course, anchorman Wesby's job is to finish the job.
And they do all this without a hitch, almost all the time.
"That usually only happens in practice," Sims said of mishaps on baton exchange. "When it's time to run for real, we're pretty solid and don't make such mistakes."
Britt had tepid hopes for his 400 team, though it had recorded an even faster time (42.22) during the season than it would need at the Junior Olympics.
"We really thought the 4-by-400 team was the one that was going to win it all," Britt said of foursome of Sims, Buggs, Wesby and Charles Hurt, "but they placed seventh."
Britt also had high hopes in 2011 when Sims, Buggs and Wesby were part of a promising 4-by-100 team in the 13-14 division.
"But Sims got injured before the meet, so that didn't pan out," Britt said of the 2011 AAU Junior Olympics, where Buggs won the 800.
That 2011 relay team was broken up the following year due to two runners moving up to the next age bracket. Now back together with the addition of Barnes, the Jets finally landed an AAU relay title after a two-year flight delay.
All four runners are juniors at West Side High School, which has a strong track tradition. The Cougars have five team state titles to their credit, including three straight from 1978 through 1980.
The last time West Side has claimed an event state title was in 2007 in the boys 4-by-400 relay. Branden Wesby, older brother of Barrie and part of the LakeShore coaching staff, was a member of that relay.
"Oh, I definitely believe these guys have a chance to win a state title," the elder Wesby said. "It's not that common when you have an AAU national champion relay team all going to the same school.
"We'll have to see what happens."
The relay team dedicated their efforts to Doris Carson, wife of Jets founder and coach Shawn Carson, who died earlier this year.