As area track and field athletes begin to hit their stride for a run at qualifying for the postseason, an impressive 21 of the previous top event times or distances were bettered at last week's Optimist Meet at Walker Valley High.
By the time the meet had finished, there were 12 girls' events with new area leaders, including McMinn County's Haley Ward taking over the top times in the 3200- and 1600-meter runs. Ward's time in the 3200 was more than a full minute faster than the area's previous top time, and her finish in the 1600 was 17 seconds better than the previous fastest.
The boys' distance events also had the most dramatic change as Baylor's Simon Holden rounds into the form that helped him claim three state titles last year. He ran 12 seconds faster than the area's previous best time in the 1600 and was 10 seconds faster in the 800 meters. Holden's 1:52.62 ranks among the top 10 fastest times in the nation among prep runners this season and is followed closely by McCallie's Jack Jones, who ran 1:56.49 last week.
McCallie's Ramsey Ritchie took 10 seconds off his best time in the 1600, narrowly finishing second to Holden in that event last week and setting up what should be a good postseason showdown.
GPS's Rachel Celestine already led the area in the shot put but increased her throw from 34 feet, 10 inches to 37-4.75, and Cleveland's Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad took over as the area's top long jumper by leaping five inches farther than the previous best. Baylor's Kate Kaufman also broke her own school record by pole vaulting 11 feet.
Baylor's Victoria Wicks, one of the area's most versatile athletes, trimmed nearly a full second off her best 2013 time in the 300-meter hurdles, which ranks as the state's third fastest in all classifications. She leads a pack of Lady Red Raiders runners who have the four fastest times in that event for the area.
A junior who also plays soccer for Baylor, Wicks already is being recruited by Louisville, Brown and the Naval Academy. She competed in last year's Division II state pentathlon and showed how versatile she is by also finishing second in the 300 hurdles and helping the 4x400 relay team win first place and the 4x100 finish second at the state meet.
Little Caesars deadline
Coaches who plan to have athletes compete in next Friday's Chattanooga Little Caesars Individual Championships at Red Bank High must input their entries at tn.milesplit.com for verification by no later than Tuesday at midnight. Only the top eight competitors in each event will compete, and there is a limit of two entries per school in individual events and one relay team per school.
Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each event, with ribbons being given to those who place fourth through eighth.
Admission is free and the meet begins at 2:30 p.m. with the boys' and girls' pole vault. Other field events begin at 4. Running events will start at 5.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...