Walker Valley and Bradley Central qualified for two and four events respectively, while Cleveland will be represented in the state competition by quite a large group of Raiders. Members of the Blue Raiders team qualified for 15 different track and field events this year.
“I think this might be our largest contingent I’ve taken (to state) in quite some time. It’s pretty impressive what they did at Sectionals — we had some standout things happen,” Cleveland coach Casey Price admitted. “Triple A is such a competitive division, that’s why we have prelims because everybody is just so good.”
During the Sectional competition the Raiders claimed first place in numerous events, like boys 4x100 and 4x800 relays, boys high jump, and girls long jump. Cleveland also finished first in the pentathlon and decathlon at an earlier qualifier.
The Spring Fling will begin on Monday with the pentathlon and decathlon, which will be concluded on Tuesday. The pressure will be on for both Isaiah Beaty and Marissa Langford, as they hope to get their team started on the right foot.
“Monday and Tuesday we get started with the pentathlon and decathlon, so we score points for state there if Isaiah and Marissa can place in the top eight,” Price said.
Beaty, a sophomore, is a part of a group of underclassmen boys who have surprised the Cleveland coaching staff this year.
“Last year we had several really good freshman boys and we knew that they were going to mature and grow up,” Price explained. “They have just blossomed and taken off. They’ve far exceeded my expectations this year.”
The girls’ track competition will begin on Wednesday with the AAA preliminaries in the evening.
At the sectionals, the Cleveland girls 4x200 relay time of 1:45:48 shattered the previous school record and earned them a second place finish.
“Our girls 4x200 obliterated our school record at the sectionals. In that race Riverdale beat us and ran 1:42. That is now the top time in the entire state. If you’re going to get beat by somebody it might as well be somebody good,” Price commented.
Field competition for the Lady Raiders will begin on Thursday morning with long jump and shot put at 10 a.m. At 11:15 high jump competition begins, followed by the triple jump at 12:30.
Sisters Qetuwrah and Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad took first and second place respectively in the long jump at Evensville last Tuesday. Marissa Langford won first place in the high jump, while finishing in third place behind Atarah in the triple jump. Hallea McClendon earned a spot in the state shot put event with her throw of 35 feet even.
“Qetuwrah and Atarah both have the chance to be in the top eight, all-state. In the triple jump Marissa Langford and Atarah have a chance to be all-state,” Price said as he described the girls’ chances at the state level. “Marissa placed last year in the high jump and Hallea McClendon threw the shot put 35 feet, so if she can duplicate that at state she has a shot.”
All eyes will be on Qetuwrah as she hopes to be close to 100 percent after recovering from an ankle injury that has slowed her up this season.
“Last week Qetuwrah jumped off her opposite foot in the long jump and still qualified — she’s just that good. I don’t want to say that she’s at 100 percent, but I think at sectionals she gained a lot of confidence for getting back to that point,” Price shared. “She does not have to jump until Thursday so she still has time to recover. She will run prelims in the 4x200 Wednesday night. Qetuwrah may just do it, she wants to win and she’s determined. I’d say she is at the 80 to 85 percent range right now.”
Lady Mustang Rachel Lawhorn will represent her school in the discus event, which is also at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. Lawhorn’s throw of 93-09 landed her in second place in the section meet.
“Rachel still has another year with us so this is going to be a great experience for her with great competition. It should really push her to get better in the next couple years,” Walker Valley coach Jasen Parks said.
The girls’ running event finals will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday evening for those athletes who qualified in the prelims.
State competition also begins for the boys at 4 p.m. Thursday with the AAA track prelims and the AAA pole vaulting finals at 6 p.m., which Beaty qualified for. The 110-meter hurdles will start the running events out, followed by the 4x100 and 100-meter dash
“If our 4x100 (boys) runs the same time or maybe faster they have a definite shot at making it to the finals. Will Hilliker also has a shot at making the finals in the 110m hurdles,” Price stated.
Recent Walker Valley graduate and Tusculum football signee Justin Ware will be competing in the 100-meter dash.
“I think that whatever Justin ends up doing at state is going to be great and I hope this carries over to his football career at Tusculum,” Parks commented. “Justin is a competitor and has learned how to compete, not just run fast. He seems to step up to whatever level of competition he is up against. There is going to be some phenomenal competition at the state and I think he is going to run his best there.”
The Bears will be represented by Harold Smith in the 800-meter prelims at 5:30.
“I think Harold should do really well in the 800, especially. He’s really put forth a lot of effort, time, and concentration into it. If he wants to, he can do very well in the 1,600,” Bradley Central coach Jeremy Rogers said.
The boys’ portion of the competition continues on into Friday, with the 3,200-meter run finals beginning at 10 a.m. Recent Dalton (Ga.) State signee Paul Patterson will represent the Bears in the 3,200 meter run.
“I was really hoping that Paul would make it in more than one event, which he really could have,” Rogers admitted. “After he ran the 3,200 at the sectionals he got sick and wasn’t even able to run the 1,600 or 800. Now he can concentrate on that one event and hopefully he’ll be able to relax and do it really well.”
The field events for the local teams will begin at 1:15 with the high jump, where Raider and Mars Hill signee Reeves Morgan will compete.
Morgan won the event at the sectional competition with a jump of 6 feet, 2 inches.
“Reeves is interesting. A year ago this time we thought he would make it, but he didn’t even make it out of the sub-section meet. This year he did what he needed to do on the day of,” Price said of his high jumper.
Both the triple jump and discus throw will follow at 2:30 p.m.
Cleveland’s Dalton Mcdonald will be in the discus competition, while recent Tennessee Wesleyan signee DeShawn McCleary will represent Bradley Central in the triple jump.
“DeShawn’s favorite event is the triple jump,” Rogers commented. “He’s really had a breakout year this year. I think DeShawn can get in the top eight.”
The running event finals will begin at 6 p.m. Friday evening for those who qualified in the prelims the previous day.