Who should you be looking for at the TSSAA State Track and Field Championships this week? This year, it's the first time we're seeing the State meet have a specific day for each of the classifications. Wednesday starts the D1 small school classification. Thursday is D1 large and then Friday is the D2 small and large. So... I suppose Friday is a bit of a sharing day with both D2 large and small on the same day. Maybe next year each of those will have their own day like the other classifications. Think maybe the pole vaulters are hoping for that.
So, let's take a closer look at the Memphis area athletes making 3 hour or so trip to Murfreesboro this week.
Lets start with the girls to watch. What we do see across the state is that it really doesn't matter what classification, large or small, when it comes to track and field. There are great performers and talent across the board here in TN. A couple of high jumpers come into the meet with jumps of 5-0. It seems this year, the high jumpers are all around that 5 foot mark and not a lot over that mark. Craigmont's Elexis Metcalf and Whitehaven's Ladasia Walton have that 5-3.75 mark. The conversion from mertric always gives me a headache, but that's the mark to beat it seems in the D1 large schools. Throw in the Briarcrest high jump athlete, Rachel Sullivan, and you have a very close group of jumpers vying for the best of the West... and in the D2 small school class, Harding Academy's Sage Hawley could creep up the bar and hit a good mark this week as well. These are the top jumpers in the West TN side of the state and so let's see how they perform this week!
It appears that the best thrower coming out of the Memphis and West TN area is a junior out of Briarcrest Christian. Alyiah Wells has a toss of 42-8 this season and when she is on spot, is unbeatable. She is the D2 AA Region champion in the shot and the discuss, so her momentum is certainly a motivating factor for her this year. What's funny here is that Alyiah is a big time volley ball athlete that just seems to have a real tie to the sport of Track and Field. It's those athletes that bring this sport into the lime light and showcase how fundamental Track can be. We grow up running, throwing and jumping. It only seems right that we continue this no matter what our primary sport might be.
Getting into some of the running events, the girls hurdles out of the Memphis area is typically a good group to watch. Immaculate Conception's Shelbi Avant has a strong 15.89 mark coming into the D2 small that could put her at the top of the podium on Friday. Another 15 second hurdler from Memphis is Michella Diebenow of Briarcrest Christian who comes into the meet with a win at the D2 Region meet. The D2 large has some hefty competition to contend with from the other regions, but I wouldn't count this gymnastics athlete out when it comes to tackling hurdles. Heck, jumping and spinning around a floor is probably nothing compared to sprinting across a couple of barriers on the track. But when it comes to hurdlers, Memphis Central seems to just bread them at will.. Jordyn Braswell, the senior from Central has been winning the 100 hurdles for a long time and comes into the state meet with that same mind set.. to win! She certainly is the fastest hurdler this season from the Memphis area. And come Thursday night, she could be the fastest across the state. Two freshman from the Memphis area just might want to make you turn your head a bit on the hurdles though - Tyra Nabors (Southwind) and Arryona Simmons (Whitehaven) are sub 15 second hurdlers that have a lot to say as well. Then let's add Collierville's Jessica Green. I watched Jessica this winter at some of the indoor meets and she is one heck of a focused competitor. The U Mass signee has nothing to prove, but if the other athletes don't keep an eye on her, we might just see this senior bust out a fast 100 and stand tall on the podium!
Lately, Whitehaven has certainly been the team to beat around the Memphis area. It's usually the sprinters and relays that pull them up onto the top of the podium. This year seems to be not too far off that norm. Whitehaven's 4x200 team has run a 1:40.29 this year and is the top seed for the meet by a considerable margin. St. Agnes, a team that is normally associated with the distance events comes into the meet with the fastest D2 time for the 4x800 and it is several seconds ahead of one of the most prolific distance teams in the Memphis area, the Houston Girls! I'm curious who will come out as the fastest 4x800 out of Memphis at the state meet this year. My guess, could be the St. Agnes girls. But if you had some inside insight, you might just want to watch that Briarcrest relay team, could be that the D2 large will be the Memphis area race to watch Friday!
The fastest 800M runner in the Memphis area is poised to defend her 800 state title this season. Meghan Underwood is likely going to have the fastest 800 time out of the Memphis area and this Arkansas signee is not going to be happy unless she does! I'd say watch the D2 large 800 race and see for yourself how this talented athlete can compete. Intense might just be the first word out of your mouth watching that race Friday night.
Now if I look at the 400M dash for the girls, it makes a huge statement that the fastest sprinters across the state come from the Memphis area. With 3 girls under 56 entering this meet out of the Memphis area, you would have a hard time arguing that point this season. Breana Miles (Southwind), Kirstin Jones (Whitehaven) and Mariah Smith of Germantown will be putting on a photo finish show in the 400 this year and you don't want to miss that!
On the boys side, Dontarious Steward of Memphis Academy of Health Sciences is one heck of a good long and triple jumper. Not many from the Memphis area can match is jumps of 23 + in the long and 43+ in the triple. I'd be hard pressed to find a horizontal jumper any better than that in the Memphis area this season. The boys shot from the area is dominated by CBHS's Patrick Healy. Although Patrick doesn't match what the east area has with the Sobota phenom, Patrick still dominates the area in the toss of that steel ball!
If you're talking about Memphis area athletes, there is no way to leave out the two Houston Senior brothers of Keaton and Collin Jones. These athletes run the 800 as fast as anyone in the state and even though they may come into the meet seeding at 3rd and 4th, I would not count these guys out to dominate Thursday once the gun goes off in the 800 at MTSU. They just seem to be unbeatable. And this stage is a pretty darn good test to see if they can deliver.
Now, there are a lot more athletes from the Memphis area that I can talk about, but it's getting late and time to post this article. Let's see if the trip out to Murfreesboro the next three days is going to be worth it for the talented group from the Memphis area. D2, D1, large and small... let's see what you have in you and how well you'll do this week! Good luck athletes!
See you on the track,