PREVIEW: East Tennessee's Best Clash at Volunteer Classic

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This weekend at the University of Tennessee, East Tennessee's best will go head to head at the Volunteer Track Classic.

Athletes from around the region will get a chance to compete at the newly renovated Tom Black Track, a venue that attracted top collegiate talent just last weekend. The "Smokey Gray" surface at UT is a fast one, sure to provide fast times across the board, starting with the distance events on Friday night.

The first distance event of the night will be the steeplechase, one of the most entertaining races in track and field. Leading the field on the girls side is Hannah Sokol of Dobyns Bennett. Her 7:31.06 is the fastest time in the field. Closely behind Sokol is Gracie Hyde of Lonoke High in Arkansas. Hyde, the Arkansas 4A State Champion in Cross Country, is seeded at 7:35.00. The other girl seeded below eight minutes is CAK's Taylor Cosey. Cosey is also scheduled to compete in the 3200 on Friday night as well.

Science Hill's Alex Crigger is the favorite to win the boys steeplechase. Crigger won this event at the Tri-Cities meet a few weeks ago, coming in with a seed time of 6:10.38. That's the fastest time of any athlete in Tennessee this outdoor season. He'll be challenged by North Lincoln's Austin Hilburn and James Daffron of Knoxville Catholic. 

The girls distance medley relay will feature a close contest between Dobyns Bennett and Cookeville. Those teams are separated by just two seconds, ranked at 13:04 and 13:06 respectively. On the guys side, it'll be a close battle between Hardin Valley and Signal Mountain. Both of those teams will be looking to break the 11-minute barrier. 

In the 3200, Webb's Niki Narayani is looking to break an 11-minute barrier of her own. Narayani was the runner up at the State Cross Country meet in Division II A, and is the only girl seeded below 11. CAK's Taylor Cosey isn't too far behind. She comes in at 11:03. You also have to look out for Knoxville Catholic's Callie Tucker, who's seeded third. She was All-State in cross country back in the fall. 

Cross Country state champions Georde Goodwyn and Carter Coughlin will face off in the final event of the night, the boys 3200. Goodwyn, the A-AA champion, and Coughlin, the Division II A champ, have faced off many times throughout their careers. Goodwyn got the best of Coughlin by one second at the Hoka One One Postal Nationals 3200 back in November. At the Foot Locker South Meet, Coughlin beat Goodwyn by nearly 40 places. That will be a fun battle to finish off the first night of competition.

Goodwyn also has the top seed time in the 1 Mile Run on Saturday (4:19).

Any preview of this meet on the field has to start with the Sobota brothers. The Bearden standouts are the overwhelming favorites in each of their events. Joshua is the top seed in both the discus and shot put. He's favored by 12 feet in the shot and 24 feet in the disc. Jacob Sobota is the top pole vaulter in the state coming into this meet. Sobota, the runner up in the decathlon at last year's AAA state meet, is also entered in the long jump and 110 hurdles.

Also on Friday night, the top boys 4x200 meter relay team in Kentucky will face off with Austin East, the fourth fastest team in the state of Tennessee.

Saturday's field events get underway at 9 a.m. Kamryn Bowman is one of the top throwers in the state in the shot put. She'll compete against Hardin Valley's Symphony Buxton, another top five thrower in the shot.

At noon, Bearden's Shawn Stacy leads a deep field of high jumpers. At 6-feet-8, Stacy is the leader in the state so far in the high jump. Dylon Dishman, the third ranked jumper in the state, is the top challenger. Camryn Bowman will come back to compete once again in the discus throw, where she's seeded ahead of the second closest competitor by 26 feet. She's the state's top thrower in the discus with a mark of 136-5.

On the track, running events get underway at 8:30 a.m. with the girls 100 Meter Hurdles. Here are some notable athletes to keep an eye on as the day progresses:

  • DeQuan Dallas (100 meters, 200 meters): 10.55, 21.64 entry times
  • Jasmine Jefferson (400 meters):  56.14 entry time
  • Bryce Barrett (200 meters, 400 meters): 21.73, 47.83 entry times
  • Sasha Neglia (Mile): 4:59.86 entry time