Pictured, from left, Stephanie Wisse, Andrew Bowen and Halie Hawkins with the medals they won during the TSSAA state track meet held in Murfreesboro last week. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

Only three Unicoi County athletes represented their high school at last week’s state tournament competitions – and they represented their school well.

Senior track and field athletes Stephanie Wisse and Andrew Bowen and sophomore Halie Hawkins competed at the TSSAA state track meet at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro last week and returned home with medals around their necks.

Wisse, a Milligan College-signee, competed in the pentathlon on May 22 and in individual events on May 25. This was Wisse’s first season competing in the pentathlon, a competition made up of five events – the 100-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put and 800-meter run – designed to test an athlete’s endurance, skill and will to compete.

“Coming out of the first event – the 100-meter hurdles – Stephanie was in second place,” head UCHS track coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “She went into the field events after that. Following the long jump, high jump and shot put, Stephanie was in third place, but she had put herself in a good position going into the 800-meter race, which was the last event of the competition.”

Wisse rose to the challenge in the 800-meter, according to Davis.

“Before the race coach (Thad) Higgins and I talked to her about her running her individual best in the 800,” Davis said. “Competing in the pentathlon is a long, tiring day for the girls and Stephanie gave it her all.”

Thanks to her performance in the 800-meter race, Wisse jumped a spot and won second place in the pentathlon behind Lennox Walker from the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences.

A few days after the pentathlon, Wisse was back in Murfressboro to compete in three additional individual events – the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash.

“It was a long week for her,” Davis said. “Competing in that many events is hard to wrap your mind around.”

Again, Wisse rose to the challenge, finishing in the top-5 in all three events. She took third place in the 100-meter hurdles, fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 300-meter hurdles.

“In every event Stephanie performed well,” Davis said.

The state meet isn’t the end for Wisse. She has more competition ahead of her.

“Milligan is going to be happy to get her,” Davis said. “I am excited for her future. The way she ended her career for Unicoi County sets a precedent for our track program. She put a lot of work in for four years.”

Bowen competed in the pole vault on May 26 and Hawkins competed in the pole vault on May 25.

“Both of them competed very well at sectionals before the state tournament,” Davis said, “and they represented UCHS track very well at state.”

Bowen ended his career on a high note, taking sixth place in the state pole vault competition with a vault of 11’-6”.

“Andrew really competed well,” Davis said. “He has been a very gifted vaulter for us during his career. He put a lot of work into pole vaulting, so to end his high school career with a state berth and medal is great.”

In just her first season as a vaulter, Hawkins finished in a tie for fourth place at the state meet.

“Halie finished with a vault of 8-feet,” Davis said. “It wasn’t her highest vault, but her mechanics and coachability mean she has a bright future ahead. This was a huge accomplishment for her.”

Wisse, Bowen and Hawkins represented UCHS well last week, according to their head coach.

“With their performances during the meet they showed what Unicoi County is made of,” Davis said. “I am proud of what they accomplished.”