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When it comes to looking over the D2 Large division from the Memphis area, it's almost impossible... no... it is impossible to ignore how strong the Christian Brothers boys have become this season. I think if we could enter more than 3 athletes in each event at the Region meet, the purple wave would turn into a tsunami!!
Ok, let me start with the short side of the stick so to speak. The D2 Large Memphis area pole vault competition saw no purple wave athletes make it to the state meet. Sigh. Ok, now that I got that out of the way, that's the only event that you won't be seeing purple making a mark. CBHS boys took the D2 Large region, I won't say by storm because it was a beautiful day for track, but they came out convincingly and pretty much exceeded all the expectations I had for the meet.
Antonio Lay is not the only star on this purple wave team, but he certainly leads this team. He seems to fly. The 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and the long jump are his events and will be on the starting line with the top seed in all these. For all you coaches that have been involved in this sport for so long, you know nothing is a given in our sport... but Antonio... he's a real deal athlete and I fully expect to see him standing above the #1 on the podium. And certainly, from that perspective, unquestionably one of the best prospects for multiple state titles from a strong group of Memphis area athletes.
When you talk about CBHS track, you almost always have to consider their throwers. This year however, you might want to call it - and I try to avoid clichés - but it's a buildup year. DJ Harden and BJ Robinson, the only qualifiers in the shot and Robinson the only Discus athlete making the trip. This could hinder their state title chances against the power house teams in the middle, but nobody at CBHS would admit that.
The Purple Wave tends to shine this time of year with their relays. The 4x800 comes in with a 4th seed and about a handful of seconds behind the top spot. That didn't bother them last year and I expect they have a good memory and could match that masterful finish again. Well, we'll see Wednesday. And on that same note, it's not a coincidence that we also see three of the Christian Brothers guys sitting among the top four in the 800M run! With these guys having times very close to each other, I am anticipating that they can use their teamwork to gain an advantage in a race that is going to be fast and close!!
Not meaning to talk up the Brothers so much, I do have to point out MUS's Shy Sellers as the top seed in the 400M dash. His sub 50 sits alone at the top and could prove to be a race to watch. Who's sitting second? Well, I'll dwell a bit again... another Brother, William Wallace. William's is a bit back, but he PR'd getting second to Shy at the Region meet. That could be a good sign for him as the State site is certainly a big stage that sets you up for improvement.
Dorian Hopkins is another Owl that we could see make his mark towards the top of the podium. Dorian's triple seed for state is a couple feet behind the top spot, but he set a PR last year well over 44 feet and so don't count this athlete out on Wednesday.
Looking over at the girl's side of the D2 Large Memphis athletes. There are a couple of athletes that just seem to stand way out above the crowd. Those would be St. Agnes vaulter Kate Sander and Briarcrest Christian's Michella Diebenow.
Kate comes in with the top seed of 11-6. But against a field where the number two spot was only nine feet, that doesn't quite tell the whole story of this super talented vaulter. At the Houston Classic in mid-April, she cleared a 12-3 on a day that was a bit windy, overcast and wet. Kate has only one 2nd place finish, and that was at the Sugar Bowl Classic early in the season, and so is very familiar with winning. Kate is very well coached and I certainly doubt she'll settle for much less than her best vault at the State meet this week! I'm looking forward to it for sure!
The Saints super hurdler, Michella Diebenow, has a similar list of accolades. Michella hasn't lost a hurdle race yet this year. As a matter of fact, the only race she hasn't crossed in first place is the 200M dash, of which her career best time of 26.26 got her an at-large bid for state in the event. So she isn't just a hurdler!! Michella doesn't shy away from winning, as a matter of fact, having the top seeds in both the 100 and 300 hurdles for the State meet is just one more incentive to give her best there.
And since I mentioned the 200M dash, let's not overlook this young Briarcrest freshman Kayleigh Prentiss who will step onto the track in her first state meet with a #2 seed in the 200. Kayleigh ran the 200M dash in a career best time of 25.51 which is just about a tenth of a second from the top seed. And yes, I know this 200M dash is stacked with talent at State, but who knows what beginners luck could come up with this week! By the way, Kayleigh also snagged the last at-large spot in the hurdles with a 16.48. And to use 'by the way' again in a sentence, that 16.48 was her second slowest race of the year in the event and about ¾'s off her best time this season. Let's see how this plays out Wednesday.
The girls high jump at state could be a platform for the D2 Large West region winner. Rachel Sullivan has experience at the state level and even though her qualifying height is lower than her best this season, the state meet is always a stage when the best comes out of these athletes. Hutchison's Carmyn Harrison ended up with a huge best at the Region meet in the Discus, and that same outcome could be at the State. Throwing around the 100 mark most of the season, she sent out the discus a huge 117-8 feet at the Region meet. It seems the big meets bring out the big throws and there's not much bigger than the state meet for sure!
Last year's State shot champion, Briarcrest senior Alyiah Wells, comes into the meet seeded second to Hutchison's Carmyn in the event. The Hutchison throwers this year look very well coached and very talented and so they can't be counted out to take everything at state. But let's step back just a second, Alyiah hasn't trained much this year because of a long recovery time following surgery on her foot. Throwing a 41-02 on the last throw of the last region meet as a senior, that second place spot is probably not a spot she wants to hold again. Again, we'll see. It's why we compete, it's it!
Looks like I've been talking a lot about the Briarcrest girls. That's probably because they won the D2 AA Region meet for the fifth year in a row this year, a five-peat I guess you call it! That means a lot of top spots in the Region. They did especially well in the relays having only yielded to St. Agnes in the 4x800. Top spots in the 400, 800 and 1600 relays have a tendency to bring in the points. At state, it appears the 4x100 may be one that could be interesting to watch. Having the #2 seed is good, but considering it's about a second and a half away from the top seed, might be a challenge for a team that isn't used to losing. Should be some fun relays to watch.
It's not even a surprise that St. Agnes girls won the 4x800 relay at the D2 AA West Region. It seems if they don't win that relay at the West Region meet, then the world has been turned upside down or we've entered a parallel universe! They always dominate that race. They come into the state meet with a 5 seed. Not sure that even registers with this team as they have always been top contenders at state in this relay. This year will be a tough race, but every year is, so I don't expect anything less out of this team.
There's so much more to talk about in this Region, that I'll just leave it at that and let you take the trip to Murfreesboro and see how everyone fares at the State Championships this week.
Before I end the article, I'd like to revisit the 4x800 girls relay from the D2 AA Region meet again for a minute. This year there was a bit of a controversy with some interference during one of the legs. Looks like with a lap ahead of another school, the one school did their exchange but interfered with the another school running their second lap. An official even tried to step in and help stop the interference from occurring but to no avail. The result is that St. Mary's gets in as the 9th spot. It's impossible to accurately say how the results would have turned out without the interference. We all know that. But with this case, TSSAA ended up doing the right thing... it's a 4x800 relay and a waterfall start is normal... so nine teams in the state final... it's why we coach this sport... so the athletes have a chance to do their best! Now... maybe we can take a look again at the field event tie rule for getting into state... could that use a bit of a tweak??
See you on the Track,