State Meet Review – Boys
I’ve always contemplated if Track & Field is a team event or an individual event. We count a score at the end of the meet, so I suppose it’s a team event. Yet, when it comes to the state championships – where you have to qualify in order to get there – it sometimes comes down to just an individual’s effort in an event. So as a coach, do you look at what is best for the athlete or for the team? In Track & Field, I believe we have the best possible setup – if there’s a chance to win a state team title, and then you work to get athletes in events to get that title. If you’re not in contention for a team title, then as a coach you have an obligation to put athletes in events that will get the best out of them as individuals. So yea, track and field is a team sport but with a generally higher focus on the individual. And yes, I might just consider running for politics after reading this paragraph! Anyways, I’d like to talk a bit on the team titles and then go over some individual highlights from the meet.
At this year’s State Track & Field meet, the team titles had some close contests. The AAA division was won by five points and the A-AA was won by 1.5 points with the third place team just 5 points off the lead. Those are pretty close races. The D-2 team title however wasn’t that close a race – and that rarely happens at this level and likely won’t happen again for some time. So let’s look a little closer at the team titles.
The AAA team scores show Houston with the overall win with 68 points and Brentwood second with 63. It would seem this was a head to head battle between two power house schools at this Track meet. It would seem that way, but it wasn’t – or was it? In reality, there were only two events that both teams went head-to-head; one was in the shot put. And in this case, Brentwood got 1st (Jack Maher, 59-1) and 6th (Paul Hunt, 50-5) place to rack up 13 points to Houston’s fourth place finish by Sam Kempka (55-6.75) that gave them just 5 points. The second event, well that was the very last event of the day and the one event that in so many track meets comes down to the deciding race for the team title. At the start of the 4x400 relay, Houston had 60 points and Brentwood had 59. So after all week, from Brentwood starting in the lead with 2 points in the Decathlon to not much of a head to head battle the rest of the week, the team title came down to just that – a head to head battle between two power house schools on the very last event for the AAA boys. The 4x400 was the deciding factor on who would win the title. Brentwood ran 3:23.09 and Houston ran 3:18.51. Four points for Brentwood and eight for Houston. Houston wins. This clearly proves the point of how much Track & Field is an individual sport – every single person is fighting against the competitor next to them, to get ahead of them. It also clearly proves the point that Track & Field is a team sport as with all the athletes added together – that’s every single point they gain – will dictate the team outcome. So folks, getting first or second or even eighth mean everything when it comes to track and field.
In the A-AA was similar to the AAA contest in that there were not a lot of head-to-head straight up battles between the two winners – Greenville (56 points) and Pearl Cohn (54.50 points). From what I could tell the Decathlon was the only spot where they went head-to-head. In that event, Anton Almqvist of Greeneville got 8 points for his second place total of 5582 points and Cameron Watkins got 6 points for third place (5227). A switch in those places would have put Pearl Cohn on the top of the team title. Probably not on these two athletes mind with the Decathlon being the very first event of the State meet. Wesley Pectol of Greenville was a big part of their win with his 30 points with three wins in the 800, 1600 and 3200 – that’s more than half of Greenville’s point total.
The D2 team title was taken by Memphis University School with a whopping 176 points. I didn’t look this up, but it has to be one of the highest point totals in a very long time at this level of track. In second was Brentwood Academy, who by the way has about 19 state Track & Field titles of their own and so winning ahead of them is one heck of an accomplishment. Of course, it helps to have the top rated Decathlete in the country on the team. But even then, Harrison Williams scored 50 points on his own and that was only about 28% of the teams’ total. Ok, let me back up a bit – fifty points by one athlete and that is only a small percentage of the point total! Yea, this MUS team came in with a plan to win the title and every athlete did their part and better to get there. Unlike the other divisions, MUS and BA did go head to head in several events. First up was the Decathlon, but again, the best in the country just had to jog through for that win. But BA’s Patrick George, with a huge contrast in style to Harrison’s calm demeanor, is someone to watch in the future. MUS scored 19 points in the decathlon alone to BA’s 8 points. BA and MUS went head to head in the relays, as they qualified in all four relays. Brentwood Academy was better by 5 points in the 4x100 and 4x200 combined and MUS better by 4 points total in the 4x400 and 4x800 – a slight edge going to BA there. BA was also better by about 5.5 points in the field events. But MUS had about 30 or so point edge with their strength and depth in the running events. Bottom line, this was a once in a lifetime team that was completely loaded with talent. A few seniors will be leaving but a few underclassmen will be back next season!
On to the individual events, and this is just a highlight so some events you watched may not get mentioned – and so that is not a reflection on the level of competition – so many great performances were at this meet it’s hard to nail them all in this write-up.
Obviously, starting with a massive 50 point total by winning five events at State we can’t help but mention MUS’s Harrison Williams. This Stanford bound athlete won the decathlon in what I would call a nice and easy couple days of competition where he won while still scoring about 400 points below his season best. He then jumped 16 in the pole vault and 6-8 in the high jump to win both those. Once the running events started, it was going to be something special to watch though. Harrison’s 110 start was fast and then the rest of the race was even faster as he glided through the hurdles to a blistering 13.79 time that was faster than the state record but unfortunately was nullified because of a 2.2 wind rating. I would be remiss though if I didn’t throw in my two cents here – the current record was set in 1981 (13.84). I’m not a young man by any means and so I’ve been around T&F for many years – I don’t remember what wind gage was used in 1981… maybe licking your finger and sticking it up in the air?? Not sure a 0.2 mark over the threshold for the wind reading should be thrown out. Oh well. But next up was the 300 Hurdles and my guess is that Harrison wasn’t happy about not getting that 110 record (although talking with him you would never hear him say a derogatory word about not getting that record). Harrison had a fast start on the 300’s too, but saying the rest of the race was fast is an understatement. He ran to a flawless 36.40 new state record. That’s one heck of an athletic week for the young athlete.
If you’re in Tennessee and talking about the Decathlon this year, no way can you do it without mentioning Harrison Williams (and I did mention it above). But with this being the last year we’ll see Harrison compete in TN, I do want to mention a couple more things. One, he just raised the bar for Track & Field in TN and from my perspective, no other thing to say than THANKS…. There are so many fine athletes across this state that sometimes between CA, TX, FL, and New York, TN doesn’t get the recognition for their track programs like they should. So, I’ll step off my soap box on that and go to the next topic.
And that is to mention a few things about the AAA decathlon. For those of you watching that event, it was actually a lot like a mini track meet all in itself. There was a very close contest between Collierville’s Josh Wheeler and McGavock’s Ben Johnson. And I do mean close. After the first day, I believe Josh was ahead by a few points. But once the second day started, Josh fell back a few points and then gained some and then fell back. When they were lining up for the 1500M run, Josh was back by a few more points than he’d like to be. All the coaches were looking over the tables and trying to figure out the points needed based on everyones PR’s in the 1500. Well, Josh had run a 4:49 before (last year in this event) and so he was decent at it – but they also figured Ben Johnson could do around a 5 minute, so they were close but this is for a state title, so taking off a few seconds on the race was certainly a good possibility. Well, I heard the Collierville coach tell Josh that he had to run 30 seconds ahead of Ben in order to get the number of points needed to win. That meant shooting for a definite PR in the 1500 on a very warm, humid and very windy afternoon – and yes, after already completing four events that day. The gun went off and Josh quickly got into the lead, a tactic he knew he had to take on immediately and hold it if he was to win. Nobody went with him. It was too fast and everyone knew that. But Josh held the pace for the first two laps and slowed a bit on the third and then the last lap he went all out and finished in 4:31 – a huge PR, but more important 34 seconds ahead of Ben. He only needed 30 seconds. So with four seconds to spare, he came away with the title. Pretty exciting first couple of days for the meet.
The distance events for the boys at this meet had some outstanding performances across all the divisions. Wesley Pectol (Greenville) by himself had some very outstanding runs while sweeping the three distance events for A-AA. He won the 800 (1:56.33), 1600 (4:16.33) and the 3200 (9:33.33) – and of no significance but to point it out – notice that all his races finished with the exact same decimal number of .33! Thought that was coincidental. In the AAA division, junior Adam Barnard (Daniel Boone) was just about 5 seconds off the state record with his 4:10.61 win in the 1600. With one more year to go, I’m wondering if that record set in 2005 by Andrew Bumbalough might just fall at this meet next season. And then the 3200 meter race came up and sometimes that race can get long while trying to watch eight laps on the track. The AAA race wasn’t a boring race by any means – the top 4 seeds came into the meet with 9:20’s and under. Then the gun went off and the top four guys took the lead very quickly – three Brentwood athletes and Aaron Templeton of Hardin Valley. The win went to Aaron Templeton as he just squeaked under the 9 minute mark to run a very fast 8:59.81. Taylor Caldwell (Brentwood) couldn’t quite catch up to Aaron but still ran a fast 9:01.13 for second place in that race. That was a fun race to watch!
This year the 800 meter race had a huge total of 20 athletes go under the 2 minute point! Eleven athletes in the AAA division ran under 2 minutes, while in the D2 race, the slowest time was 2:00.75. That’s some high-speed racing for sure! The fastest time of the meet went to D2’s Carlton Orange of Memphis University School with an intense 1:52.11. That was less than a second faster than Chase Hilton of Bearden who ran the AAA 800 in 1:52.87.
On the sprint side, there wasn’t anyone faster than Cordova’s Molefi Maat when it came down to the 100 and 200 meter dashes. He ran the 100 in 10.47 missing the state record by 0.07 of a second – faster than a blink of your eye! And the 200 he ran in 21.38 which is about half a second from the state record itself. That AAA 100 final was a good race for Molefi considering six of the guys broke under 11 with Dom Childress (Independence) and Zeandre Floyd (West Creek) having to go to the photo finish to determine the second place winner. Dom won in 10.675 while Zeandre got 10.679. You expect tight races at the State Championships and we certainly got them here!
Probably one of the better field events this season was in the shot put. Franklin Road Academy’s Joe Irby threw the shot 62-0 to win the D2 event and set the highest mark of the meet among all the divisions. Second best throw came from A-AA athlete Rusty Provins (Cumberland Gap) who tossed a win with his 60-2. That’s two tosses over the 60 foot mark. Brentwood HS’s Jack Maher threw a 59-1 on his last toss to win the AAA division. Irby also got the win in the D2 discus with his 174-4 throw that was the second best overall at the meet. Longest toss came from Gallatin’s Brett Neelley who scattered the officials as they scrambled to get to his mark of 180-4. That was about fifteen feet farther than the second place finisher in that division.
There were a lot of seniors that won events at this meet, actually, a majority of the wins came from seniors. That means one thing – next season is open for the younger athletes to step up and probably will come down to who practices the best during the off season and who wants it the most. And with a few freshman and even younger athletes at this meet doing so well…. Well, it’ll be exciting to see who steps onto the top spot on the podium next year! Keep training…. Run jump and throw, don’t you just love this sport!
See you on the track,