Craig earns sweet reward

By JOE CANNON
Posted 5/19/19

The sky's the limit for a Walker Valley sophomore, especially given the right incentive."Coach (Drew Nunnelly) promised me Krispy Kreme donuts if I placed fifth," explained Skyy Craig on his way home …

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Craig earns sweet reward

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The sky’s the limit for a Walker Valley sophomore, especially given the right incentive.

“Coach (Drew Nunnelly) promised me Krispy Kreme donuts if I placed fifth,” explained Skyy Craig on his way home after finishing fourth at the TSSAA State Decathlon in Clarksville Friday.

Continuing what has become a successful Mustang tradition, Craig went into the grueling two-day competition as the eighth-best qualifier. He was the youngest and smallest competitor, but that didn’t deter him.

“At first being the youngest was kind of intimidating, but my goal was to make the podium (Top 8 finish),” he related.

“I had a good first day, excluding my 100 [meter dash], and was in sixth place overall. The second day I knew I wasn’t too far from fourth, so that was my goal and that would get me the donuts,” he joked.

“Skyy handled being the youngest very well and had a strong couple of days,” related WV head coach Drew Nunnelly.

“He had eight personal records (in the 10 events) and set one decathlon event PR (110m hurdles).”

Craig posted 5,918 points, just 30 behind third-place finisher Deng Wek of Memphis Central, and 21 ahead of senior Shea DeGraaf from Knox Central, who took fifth.

Repeating their 1-2 finish from last year, Brentwood junior Jet Kinder dominated the event with 7,077 points for the gold medal, while senior Christian Shouse of Campbell County took silver at 6,914.

Craig became the sixth TSSAA State Decathlon participant in the past 13 years, including each of the past four seasons, for the north Bradley County school.

Tying for the second-best finish by a Mustang behind Zeke Westfield’s third place last May, he matched the fourth-place finish of Bryce Nunnelly in 2017, while Westfield was right behind him in fifth.

Bryce Nunnelly, currently a standout wide receiver for UT-Chattanooga, was the first WV athlete to make the podium with a seventh-place finish in 2016.

Clinton Jacques and Trent Nunnelly carried the Mustang mantle to the state in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

“We’re tickled to have another state decathlete,” proclaimed Coach Drew Nunnelly, who was the program’s first state participant in 2007.

While Craig wasn’t happy with his performance in the 100m dash to open the two-day event at Austin Peay State University, his time of 11.16 was his third-best ever and earned him third place in the race.

“For some reason, I wasn’t present mentally during that race. I could have done better,” he said of his personal best time of 10.90. Craig will be in Murfreesboro this week to compete in the 100m in the TSSAA State Meet at MTSU.

“I didn’t stress over it, but it let me know I needed to focus more in the rest of the events Thursday.”

While admitting pole vault is not one of his stronger events, the 5-foot-8, 145-pounder was able to clear 8-feet, 11.75 inches to tie two others for 10th place. He actually did a back flip over the bar on one of his attempts.

Craig followed with a seventh-place finish in the discus, bettering his former personal best by seven feet, throwing it 100 feet, 5 inches.

Another PR in the triple jump, leaping 40 feet, 9 inches, earned him another seventh-place tally.

He wrapped up the opening day with a fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash with a 52.30 PR time.

Day 2 started with Craig’s strongest event, the 110-meter hurdles. A state-meet qualifier in both the 110mH and 300mH, he breezed to a second-place finish with a 15.28, his best time ever while running the event in a decathlon.

Improving his personal best, Craig finished third in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 11.75 inches.

He tied his decathlon-best high jump mark, but at only 5-feet, 2-inches it placed him 11th among the competition.

Craig finished strong with back-to-back PRs in the shot put and 1500-meter run.

He improved his best shot put mark by more than five feet, tossing it 36 feet, 11 inches for sixth place before finishing runner-up in the distance run with a time of 4:51.48.

“As we got deeper into the meet, I had to sit down and decide if I wanted it. I’m really glad for Coach Nunnelly supporting me the whole way,” Craig remarked.

“The decathlon is a lot like life. You may not like all the events, but you do your best and keep going to face the next challenge,” the Mustang mentor assessed.

“We take a lot of pride in our decathlon/pentathlon athletes. We are picky about who competes in it. It’s grueling. You have to be tough mentally, as well as physically.

“Skyy is that kind of athlete. While the rules say you get 20 minutes between events, it’s really more like just five minutes to rest, then 15 minutes of warming up for the next event.

“Skyy showed good potential for the decathlon last year as a freshman, finishing ninth in the Sectional. I thought he could be a (state) qualifier this year and he did with a second-place finish at Sectional,” related Coach Nunnelly. “He showed up and really brought it when it mattered the most.”

Craig will be the lone Mustang at the state meet this week, qualifying second in the 300mH (38.30), just behind Cleveland’s Eric Parker (37.80). He also qualified eighth in the 100mH (15.21) and ninth in the the 100m dash (11.23). 

“We have Skyy, plus five girls participating in seven events,” explained Coach Nunnelly.

Junior Sophie Frederick, an All-Stater last year, is making her third trip to Murfreesboro in the discus (qualified third, 114-5); plus, her first throwing the shot put (ninth, 35-9.50).

“Sophie’s the school-record holder in both the discus and shot and was the Sectional runner-up shot this year.”

The Lady Mustang 4x400 relay team — sophomores Ashley Eulo, Sydney Judd, Michelle Gomez and freshman Larkin Garrett — will also be competing among the state’s best after breaking the school record with a 4:15.14 time at the Sectional.

Eulo and Judd helped the Walker Valley cross-country team to a runner-up finish at the region race and a spot in the state meet last fall.

They were also part of last year’s state qualifying 4x800 foursome and, along with Gomez, on the 4x400 team in Murfreesboro last May, as well. Eulo also made the 2018 state meet in the 800-meter run.

“We’re expecting big things from them this year,” Coach Nunnelly remarked.

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