By Keeli Parkey
What the 2017 Unicoi County High School track teams lack in quantity, they make up for in quality.
Only five Blue Devils and 11 Lady Devils are part of the program this season, but head coach Megan Davis sees a lot of potential in her athletes.
“Individually, we have a lot of opportunities,” Davis told The Erwin Record. “All of them individually have chances to do big things for themselves and compete at a high level.”
During the preseason, Davis saw her teams ready to prepare for meets.
“Our kids have put in a lot of work preparing for the season,” she said. “We have a smaller team, so we have asked them to do different things this year. We have done more individualized workouts.
“The athletes are being asked to fill different roles,” Davis continued. “They are being taken out of their comfort zones a lot. I think that has been and will be beneficial for us. It is getting them into areas where they can thrive.”
Lady Devil Stephanie Wisse, who finished in fourth place in the 100-meter hurdles at the state meet in 2016, returns for her senior season, Davis said.
“She only started running that event last season,” the head coach said. “We were happy that she did so well in a new event, but we think she can do even better this season. This year, she wants to make it to state in multiple events.”
Wisse will also compete in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, as well as the 300-meter hurdles.
“Last year we ran Stephanie in four events in every meet and she would finish first in every event,” Davis said. “She is a good athlete and can compete in many events. She has been willing to try new events this season.”
Senior thrower Cameron Higgins, a Milligan College-signee, will lead the Blue Devil squad this season. Higgins throws both discus and shot for the team.
“Cameron is coming back from a knee injury he suffered during football season,” Davis said. “He has been putting in a lot of work, not to just get himself healthy but also to qualify for state.”
Higgins made it to the sectional round each of the last two seasons and narrowly missed out on a state berth.
Seniors Andrew Bowen and Andrew Edwards are also expected to contribute this season. Bowen is a pole vaulter who Davis said has a chance to qualify for the state meet. Edwards is a solid thrower who is expected to make an impact this season. Both seniors will also run some events for the squad.
Sophomore John Campbell will handle distance running for the Blue Devils.
“He should be big for us this year,” Davis said.
New to the team is freshman Nicholas Lynch.
“We hope to get him in the high jump and long jump,” Davis said. “He will also run the 400 for us.”
Junior Megan Todd will be a distance runner for the Lady Devils. Todd has competed at the state level in cross country and Davis sees that success carrying over to the track season.
“We are expecting big things out of her this season,” she added. “We want to see her compete at the state level for track.”
The Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter team is expected to defend the 2016 conference title. Making up the team are junior Kaitlyn Tilson, junior Jillian Taylor, freshman Cheyenne Wilson and Todd.
“They are a good team,” Davis said. “State isn’t out of the question for them.”
Four-year senior Daniela Martinez also returns for the Lady Devils. Martinez throws the shot put and discus and runs the 400-meter.
“She is a great leader,” Davis said. “She is the epitome of a teammate. She works hard and supports her teammates.”
Four girls will compete in the pole vault event this season. They are senior Yvette Galloway, junior Alex Carter, freshman Bernice Luquin and sophomore Halie Hawkins.
“Pole vault is a focus of ours,” Davis said. “All the girls are working hard on this event.”
Sophomore Natalia Mendoza has battled injury so far this season, Davis said.
“She is a hard worker and we can’t wait to have her back,” Davis added.
Thad Higgins will be an assistant coach with the program this season.