Recap: Chattanooga Little Caesars Individual Championships

The four-minute mile has been the standard for track and field long distance runners since Roger Bannister first broke the barrier in 1954. Since that time, the mark has been broken by many male professional distance runners, however there have only been a handful of high school athletes that have accomplished the feat.

Red Bank junior Cole Bullock hopes to add his name to the list.

Bullock ran a blistering 4:15.80 in the 1600 meters at the Chattanooga Little Caesars Individual Championships on his home track Friday. The time broke his old personal best by six seconds and is the fastest time in the state this season.

"I've always dreamed of breaking four minutes," said Bullock, who looked like he had gone on a light jog just minutes after the race. "I just never thought I'd be this close this soon.

Bullock's 61-second first lap set him up nicely for the rest of the race. He admitted that where he has the most difficulty is in the middle of the race, specifically the third lap. 

"I was just trying to run 65-second splits and break 4:20," Bullock said of his pre-race strategy. "Normally on the third lap I start to die, but today my adrenaline kicked in so I decided to give it all I had."

Due to the meet format, nearly every event was highly contested.  There was only one heat for each race, with only the top verified times allowed to compete, ensuring the very best in the area battled head-to-head throughout the day.

There was no event where that was more evident than in the boys' hurdles, which provided the evening's highest drama. The event featured three of the state's top hurdlers: Cleveland teammates Benjedi Casseus and Eric Parker and Arts & Science's Brevin Sims. Casseus, a senior, is the reigning Class AAA 110-meter hurdle champion, while Sims won the same title in Class A/AA. Parker, a junior, holds the fastest time in the state in the event this season.

The race did not disappoint, with Parker edging out Sims by the slimmest of margins, 0.01 seconds, in a time of 14.19, while Casseus finished third.

The three faced off again in the 300 hurdles, with Casseus winning in a time of 38.42.  Sims again finished in a close second with a 38.57, and Parker came in third.  The times by Casseus and Sims were both faster than the previous fastest time in the state for 2018.

Based on each athlete's current fastest time in each event, all three are eyeing championships in Murfreesboro in May. Parker and Casseus look to split the 110 and 300 hurdles respectively, while Sims, who is only a sophomore, hopes to pull off the double, defending his title in the 110 and setting himself up to potentially be a four-time state champion in the event.

The boys' 800 meters provided another photo finish with a margin of 0.01 seconds. Baylor junior Jackson Collette won with a time of 2:02.76, barely beating Signal Mountain's Jackson Lillard, also a junior.

Cleveland senior Keegan Jones, arguably the area's fastest man, blew away the competition to win both the 100 (10.75) and 200 (21.95). McCallie's Charlie Winchester won the discus (130-3) and Cleveland's Alex Higgins won the shot put (49-0.75), both personal bests.

On the girls' side, Arts & Science's Alayah Dozier continues to garner a lot of attention, and for good reason. The sophomore had another tremendous meet, winning both the 200 (25.14) and 400 (58.47) and finished third in the 100 (12.34). She also ran the final leg in the 4x400 relay, bringing her team back to a fifth place finish. Dozier appears primed to achieve the goal stated at last week's McCallie Mid-South Classic, pulling off the amazing feat of winning the state title in the 100, 200, and 400. All three of her times on Friday would have won the A/AA title in their respective events in 2017, and her 100 and 400 times weren't even her personal bests.

Signal Mountain's Mattie Parker ran a new personal best to win the 1600 (5:19.74) and followed that by winning the 800 with a time of 2:25.27, beating eighth-grade teammate Tara Jessen and GPS senior Carley Braman by less than a half-second. 

Rhea County junior Lesley Green, who finished fourth in the 1600, came back to win the 3200 with a personal best of 11:33.70.

"I prefer running longer distances," said Green, who has even discussed running a marathon at the collegiate level. "I set very high expectations for myself. I love meets like this because they challenge me and make me better."

Baylor's JuToreyia Willis won the triple jump (37-1.75), beating the field by nearly seven feet.  McMinn County sophomore Paige Manney won the 100-meter hurdles with a 15.44 in yet another finish with a 0.01-second margin over Baylor senior Kayla Hayes. Hayes would go on to win the 300 hurdles with a 45.90, nearly a full second better than her previous best. Walker Valley's Sophie Frederick also threw a new personal best of 105-3 to win the discus over Mattie Thomas from Soddy-Daisy.

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