TSSAA AAA State Track & Field Championships Meet Recap
In the AAA division, the big school division, probably the most impressive thing of the day was the three-peat by the Whitehaven team. Winning three years in a row is an accomplishment that isn't easy. And four years ago, they were the runner up for the team title. That's not too bad a run for this team out of the Memphis area!
To win the state championships in track, it takes a lot of depth or a couple of front runner athletes. Sometimes it helps to have both. For Whitehaven, Kiara Rhodes is their front runner. Kiara was the Pentathlon champion earlier in the week in a very close contest with Taylor Pickett of Brentwood. This contest set the stage for Thursday's events as Brentwood won the runner up plaque at these championships with a close contest that was six points away from a tie. Nobody else came close.
Like I said, having a good front runner goes a long way to get the win here at State. Kiara also won the 300 Hurdles, a race that maybe, well, let's just say this was a good race and all hurdles were cleared. The 43.94 she ran ends up being the top mark in the state this season and something you want to see at the State level for sure. Kiara doesn't hold the fastest time in the state for the 100 hurdles, but she does hold the AAA state champion title this year again. So that puts Kiara at 3 titles at the meet this year. And although that doesn't put Kiara at the max point level for this meet, it's still super impressive. So the team title needed to come with a bit more help. Kirstin Jones took second in the 200 and 100, and team titles for the 4x100 and 4x200 relays certainly helped the case to get the six point win.
Adding to a very short list of sub 11's at this state championships, Erica Fisher of Arlington powered her way with the lead in the girls 3200 and clocked a 10:59.28 at the end. The 3200 this year required some strategy and some patience to be able to get through the race with the wind coming at her strong every time she made north side turn. Of course, having a bit of a kick at the end was what Erica needed to hold off a charging Addi Coggins of Independence. Those two girls ran the 5th and 6th fastest times in the state Thursday to get the first and second positions. Not a bad days work for sure!
This week, we had 3 girls break the 2:17 mark in the 800 and all three were from different divisions. Jessica Lord of Morristown West just happened to be one of those girls and so the only one in the AAA division to accomplish that task. Jessica decided to run her fastest race of the season here at the State meet and it worked out well since she was awarded the title for her effort. The 1600 race for the girls was one of the best races of the night to watch. A small pack developed fairly early with Madeline Shook, a freshman out of West, perennial speedster Ella Baron of Houston, Lindsey Stallworth another superb athlete from West and eventual winner, Addi Coggins of Independence. These girls stayed shoulder to shoulder for most of the race with the wind seemingly having no effect on this pack as their pace kept steady throughout. Addi's time of 5:04.32 got her a top five spot on the end of season rankings for the event along with the state title.
Before finishing up with the girls recap, I have to talk a little about the triple jump for this girls division. The winner was Oakland's junior Imani Udoumana with a very good 37-10 leap. She got that mark on her second jump but still was consistent with a couple more 37's Thursday. Then it came down to who could handle the pressure for the runner up spot. Five girls jumped over 35 feet for this class. In that list was India Wilson (Southwind, 35-1.5), Morgan Salyers (Volunteer, 35-2), Karson Young (Coffee County, 35-4.5), Georgia McDevitt (Maryville, 35-5.5), Pole Vaulter runner up finisher Taylor Pickett (Brentwood, 35-8.5), and finally in the runner up spot was Avery Truelove (Centennial, 35-10). That's some very good competition.
At the very end of the night, the 4x400 can occasionally provide some excitement. By this race on Thursday, there wasn't any excitement relative to Whitehaven since they weren't entered and nobody in the field could push them off the podium by this point. But the race boasted the number one 4x400 team in the state, Ravenwood and several more of the top marks. The race didn't disappoint by any means. There were nine marks set this evening that posted top 20 marks for the state this season. The race between West and Ravenwood came down to the wire as West ran 4:01.58 and Ravenwood kept their top ranking with a 3:59.99 that was the only team of the evening to go under the 4 minute mark, and by just a hair but still under the mark!
The boys AAA class is filled with talented individuals across all the events. But before I can talk about how the shot put was clearly an out of the ring awesome performance, I have to mention a few of the other events. The pole vault was a fun one to watch with three guys clearing 14-0 that included Brentwood freshman Jett Kinder and teammate Garrett Lee. Then Cole Shea of Mt. Juliet went up six more inches and cleared 14-6 on his third try to get the win. Very exciting indeed. Then there's the high jump that required a 6-5 jump off to get the win by Emilio Martin of Blackman. And the long jump took a 23-4.25 jump to get a win. Cordova's Isaiah Norman needed that jump because right there next to him were six others that had jumps over 22'. Yep, that's right almost half this field went over 22' feet this year.
Now to the shot put. This event brought a crowd with them and it wasn't a surprise why. On his first try of the morning, Bearden's powerhouse Joshua Sobota tossed the shot as far as he could, well, then again, not quite. His second try was further by over a foot at 60-8.5 feet. But he wasn't done yet as each consecutive toss went further and his last two or three went so far that they bounced over the railroad ties at the end of the pit and landed among the spectators. Anyone sitting on the first seat of the bleaches needed to watch their feet because that shot was rolling towards them. Yes, the shot actually went so far it bounced out of the pit.
Joshua let it all out on his last throw and ended up fouling but the second to last toss went an amazing 63-8.25 feet that brought a good amount of cheers among all those gathered to watch the event! In second was Spencer Goode of Bradley Central who was able to get a huge toss (56-7.5) as well but just got overshadowed by Joshua's performance that day. Joshua also tossed a mere 190-03 in the discus to capture that title that was about forty feet in front of still some very strong second third and fourth place tosses! A clinic in the throws for sure!
Houston high took to the track and set the only sub 8 minute performance in the 4x800 among the divisions. Their 7:58.51 took first and Blackman took second in 8:03.53. The wind was a factor on this day and so having that mark was even more impressive than it appears. The wind gage for the track sat atop a tripod that just seemed no match against the wind that kept knocking it down as soon as the officials picked it up.
But that headwind didn't seem to faze Cleveland's Benjedi Casseus who ran a swift 15.23 to win the second running event of the night in the 110 hurdles. The 100M dash athletes didn't seem to be nervous about the wind either. The top three in this division ended with the only ones to break under 11 seconds. Michael Scruggs (Riverdale) and Donovan Whitmore (Siegel) ran a photo finish mark of 10.963 and 10.968 respectively to overtake last year's champion Rashad Haynes of Memphis Central who ran 10.99.
The fastest 1600 of the day came from Alex Crigger of Science Hill when he and Conner Hawkins of Cookville took the lead in the race and finished strong with a 4:17.97 and 4:19.43. Both those were the only sub 4:20's of the day. And again, fighting that wind proved these performances better than the times indicate. But in the 3200, it was a race to fight each other as well as the wind again. The pack stayed together for a couple of laps and then Titus Winders of Henry County decided it was too slow for him and took to the front and started to move away slowly. After a while, Ben Varghese of Daniel Boone realized that if he wanted to get onto the top of the podium it was time to chase down Titus or miss that opportunity. So out he went after Titus and with about two laps to go gained on him considerably and was able to take the win with a big surge with about 600 meters to go and end up winning in 9:13.42. Titus got the runner up spot with a 9:18.42. The AAA boys had all top scorers go under the 10 minute mark on this windy and competitive day!
Houston high took the 800 serious on this day when we saw seven out of the top eight going under the 2 minute mark. Keaton Jones ran a 1:4.85 and Colin Jones won in 1:54.53 in a race that was as close to a photo finish in an 800 as you can get that also included Kenton Bachman of Hardin Valley (1:54.99).
And something you have to watch out for in heat races is seeing someone with a lower seed pop out a good race and get to or near the top. In this meet, the second heat of each event was considered the ones with the faster seed times. In the boys 300 hurdles for AAA, that didn't pan out that way. Courtney Thomas of Memphis Central came out of the first heat to win the event in a time of 38.43 to runner up Damon Hodge (Hillsboro) who ran in the second heat in a time of 38.74.
The boy's team title was taken by Memphis Central in 67.50 points and Brentwood the runner up spot with 60 points. That was pretty close to how the point spread was with the girls side of this division too. It also shows that every single point counts across the meet and with this many schools in the competition; it brings out the excitement that even an 8th place 1 point finish can bring. That's track and field at its best. And you've got to love it!!
See you on the track,