Track and Field in Tennessee is certainly taking on a life of its own and Indoor Track is at the heart of it for sure!
The performances at this year's State Indoor Championships are proof positive TN Athletes are talented... and I mean really talented! From meet records, state records, US top ten marks to neck and neck races that had your adrenaline pumping!! This past Saturday's meet was why we coach, why we compete and why we love this sport.
Thinking back through what I saw at the meet, I am hard pressed to figure out what performance was the best of the meet. I was watching the girls pole vault and as the bar was moving towards the 11' mark, I found it difficult to focus on some of the other events going on at the same time. Then it went up to 11-6 and both Kate Sanders (St. Agnes) and Alexandria Swindle (Brentwood Academy) tied. And that tie was unusual at best, they matched jumps perfectly all the way through. When the bar went to (it's metric, so I'm close on the conversion) 12', more excitement started happening! Anderson County's Brittany Bishop cleared 12'. And it looked easy. Twelve feet six inches looked easy and so did 13 feet. Yep, you heard that right, Brittany cleared 13' in the indoor vault! Brittany already held the top mark in TN for the indoor season this year and that was after topping that spot for last year's outdoor season. That tops the indoor and outdoor state record mark. And I'm hard pressed to know what was more fun to watch, the 13' vault or her smile after making that mark! You gotta love this sport!!
So I'd say that vault was the best performance of the meet. But was it? Could it have been Whitehaven's Emmanuel Bynum's run in the 200M dash. Setting a meet record in the prelims and a top 20 US mark might just be considered a candidate for best performance. But then he came back in the finals and set another meet record and got into the top 10 US performance. In itself, those were impressive. But add in the 400M dash where Emmanuel ran another top ten mark and meet record of 48.04 and then came back again and broke it by running a 47.76 record and another US top ten mark. Yea, that could have been the performances of the day.
Then again, what about the men's mile race, or should I say, that blistering mile race! As soon as the gun went off in that race, you could feel you were about to watch something special. Jake Renfree (Knox Catholic) has already had a history making indoor season. That didn't stop him from turning on the burners in this spectacular mile race that was one of the best distances races I've ever watched! Red Bank's Cole Bullock, Centennials' Davis Bove and Jake all took off at a blistering pace in this race. I had to double check the meet schedule, for a moment I thought it might have been an 800 race. It was that fast! Neck and neck the whole way, then Jake and Davis moved ahead in the last lap to make an exciting race even more electrifying! Jake won in 4:11.09 and Davis a blink away in 4:11.83. That's the #8 and #14 best times in the nation now! Set here at the TN State Indoor championships.
So yea, that mile certainly is one of the best performances of the meet. Then if you are a distance race fan, the 2 mile provided its own bit of excitement as well. Silas Winders (Henry County) came in as the favorite but Beech's David Ahlmeyer wasn't having any of that this Saturday. Both guys took off in the lead pack and Canaan Anderson (Siegel) stuck with them for quite a while as well. The lead changed hands a few times and you had to keep asking yourself how these guys can hang in with the pace they were running. With a couple laps to go, Silas seemed to just click and he pulled away slowly to capture the win in 9:14.02 and David in the runner up spot in 9:20.51. A top 10 US mark for Silas and top 20 for David. Yep, certainly one of the performances of note at this indoor meet.
The women's 2 mile was another race that I did not expect to be as exciting as it was. Cookeville's Landri Wilcox ran a 10:39.75 to capture the win with Arlington's Skylar Boogerd right on her back in 10:41.18. Both these athletes ran US top 10 marks and now sit 1 and 2 in the state 2 mile rankings. Yep, at a time when you don't really expect to see distance marks fall, these girls proved otherwise and busted out a super exciting 2-mile race. In head to head competition between these two athletes, Landri has usually come out on top but this race, this 2-mile performance, had to get everyone thinking as they both had to run PR's to get to the finish line in the order they did. Yea, one great performance this was!
Can you tell these TN athletes gave some spectacular performances at this meet? Something I should point out. In my preview of the Memphis area athletes coming out to this meet, I inadvertently left off Christian Brothers competitor, Antonio Lay. I won't forget to mention him now. Um... running a 6.96 meet record time and top spot in the prelims should solidify his mark on this meet. But this is Antonio Lay, and he doesn't settle for just being the best. In the finals, he burst out of the blocks to a lead and win in yet another meet record time of 6.89. And he also ran to a runner up spot in the 200M dash, both in the prelims and the finals. His 22.18 was bettered by his finals run of 22.10. That 60M state record was also their school record. And yes, another great performance at this meet.
Those of you that know me, know I'm a big fan of the 800M dash... um, I mean 800M run. The girls 800M was stacked with several very strong 800M runners. Kensi Gray (Hardin Valley), Loral Winn (Dresden), and up and coming Felicity Bost (Houston). This race however, came down to a couple of juniors that were able to press the hardest to the end. Sasha Neglia (Dobyns-Bennet) ran to a strong meet record 2:15.83. But that wasn't enough as Hardin Valley's Ellie Bachmann finished in 2:13.70M and set a meet record that might just be difficult to better in the years to come. The top 8 finishers in this race all broke under 2:20. Not a bad race at all.
Then of course, the boys were up next and Jake Renfree, Davis Bove, Miguel Parrilla (Hardin Valley), Gabriel Robinson (Ravenwood) and Andre Brown (Whitehaven) were all on the starting line. Three of these guys finished with US top ten marks. Three! Miguel came across in third with 1:54.35, then Davis in 1:54.00 and Jake in a time just a blink of an eye away from the meet record in 1:52.55! Those were a couple of riveting and fast races for sure and another group of top performances at this meet.
A few other performances that I didn't get to watch up close but still want to mention. With a pretty loud yell by the crowd, the boys high jump got my attention. Halls High School's Ethan Campbell moved the bar up to the 2.05M mark that broke last season's meet record by 0.05M. Jumping 6-8.75 was high enough that I could see the bar over the people in front of me, and I was on the other side of the facility! Jumping over a bar set taller than you, well, that just amazes me! Ethan now sits at the top of the bar in the state with that leap and #11 in the nation. Not a bad spot to be!
The horizontal jumps had a few surprises. Some of the athletes that I thought would be up on the top were outdueled by others. Mikele Vickers (Lipscomb), the top indoor long and triple jumper in the state, was able to nail the triple jump win by a good margin but fell back a little in the long jump by a few inches. Meg Wilson of Brentwood High moved herself up in the state rankings with her 18-3.75 long jump win and now has the #2 spot in the state. The boys long jump was quite the event with Houston's Aeneas Reed taking the win with his 22-9.25. Right behind him was Wilson Central's Garrett Todd (22-1.75) and Roman Woodson (Columbia High, 22-1.25). These three guys now hold the top three spots in the indoor state rankings with their performances.
As is the case in most track meets, the last event is normally the 4x400 relay. According to the announcer at the start of this event, the battle between Hardin Valley and Whitehaven was going to come down to how these two teams finished in this relay. If Hardin Valley won this relay and Whitehaven came in third, Hardin Valley would win. Only six teams score on this track. They needed to win by a couple of spots over Whitehaven, but the caveat here was they also had to win the relay otherwise the scenario changed dramatically. Both teams are stacked with great 400 runners. So the gun goes off and the race is on. Hardin Valley started out fast and to take the early lead. Whitehaven is a bit back by the time the 2nd exchange is completed. Halfway through, Hardin Valley was behind a bit but Whitehaven still not past them. At the final exchange Hardin Valley was in the lead again but it was tight. A huge crowd was scampering around the finish line; this was coming down to a horse race for sure! Hardin Valley ended up winning the relay in 3:26.16 and about as tight as you can imagine, Whitehaven nudged past Farragut by only a quarter of a second. Yea, a quarter of a second and yes, Whitehaven won the boys team title by two points.
So... anybody here agree with me... Track and Field in Tennessee isn't just a secondary sport, it isn't just a sport to keep in shape for other sports... it's a front-runner sport, it's one heck of an exciting sport with tons of talented athletes and teams! And yes, not only are these athletes all a part of some fantastic teams, we all are a part of this great team of Track and Field in Tennessee! It's now time for the outdoor season to begin... Take your marks!!!
See you on the track,