By Keeli Parkey
An influx of new athletes has provided a spark for the Unicoi County High School track and field program.
“I think kids see a team they want to be a part of and have the opportunity to join a successful program, both as individuals and as a member of a team,” head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “Our numbers increasing this season is the result of the success from the last three years of state meet appearances.”
After having only 22 team members last season – six of whom were seniors – the 2018 UCHS track program has 34 athletes.
“We have a lot of new members,” Davis said. “We have athletes from other sports who have joined the team, as well as several freshmen.”
Preseason workouts for the 2018 were limited because of inclement weather, according to Davis.
“Preseason was tough because of the weather and that has been an obstacle,” she added, “but, the kids have been working hard and have used every minute they can to prepare for the season.”
In 2018, UCHS athletes will compete against bigger schools than in recent years. Instead of competing against schools once classified as A/AA, the Blue Devils and Lady Devils will now compete against AAA schools due to reclassification done by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA).
“We have moved up to a division with larger schools this season. Because of that, the path to state will be more difficult for us this year,” Davis said. “Still, the expectation is that the Unicoi County track and field program will make an appearance at the state meet this season. We have used that as motivation to push the kids to compete. It is not something they should be intimated by.”
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Leading the way for the Blue Devils this season will be junior runner John Campbell who will run in the 800-meter, 1-mile and steeplechase races.
“John’s season last year ended in a race that was decided by less than one second,” Davis said. “That has pushed him to work even harder so he can go to that meet this season and advance in the postseason.”
Junior Shane Armstrong, who will throw shot put and discus, is returning to the team for his junior year.
“Shane is very strong and has the passion to want to learn the proper technique to be a very good thrower,” Davis said. “With his abilities, we have expectations of him advancing in the postseason.”
Sprinter Kody Lewis is new to the UCHS track program. Davis said the sophomore will run in the 100-meter and 200-meter races and compete in the high jump.
“Kody is an athlete,” Davis said. “His speed is going to gain him some recognition. We are excited to see what he can do as he develops his skills.”
Also on the Blue Devil squad are: Michael Harrington, Roby Lemmon, Adam Lewis, Wyatt Miller, Jesus Padilla, Jacob Schreck and Ernesto Soto.
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Three senior distance runners – Kaitlyn Tilson, Jillian Taylor and Megan Todd – will provide leadership for the Lady Devil squad in 2018.
“They have put in four years of work,” Davis said. “They are excellent leaders on our team. They set high expectations for themselves and the newcomers. They are members of the 4×800-meter team that we hope can advance in the postseason. We are still deciding who will join them in that race.”
Davis also expects junior Halie Hawkins, who tied for fourth place in the pole vault competition at the state meet in 2017 – to make noise in 2018.
“Halie is splitting time between track and softball,” Davis said. “She is dedicated and puts the time in. This season will be about her perfecting her skills, not just learning about vaulting. She is a talented vaulter who can compete at a high level.”
Also on the Lady Devil squad are: Rachel Altemose, Maria Andrade, Mirand Avila, Alex Carter, Ashley Clayton, Hailie Dehoff, Alexis Harvey, Kayla Hicks, Bernice Luquin, Iliana Martinez-Lopez, Natalia Mendoza, Luz Perez, Jadyn Peterson, Valeria Ponce, Maria Ponce-Rivera, Zoie Stout, Sabrina Todd and Cheyenne Wilson.
Serving as an assistant coach again this season is Thad Higgins.
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Davis got her first look at her athletes in competition on Tuesday, March 13, in a meet hosted by Greeneville High School. Competing against Greeneville, Science Hill, University High, Claiborne County, Providence Academy and Chuckey-Doak several Blue Devils and Lady Devils turned in notable performances despite inclement weather.
“Teams can choose to compete or not in that situation and our kids competed,” Davis said.
For the Blue Devils:
• Lewis placed first in the high jump, first in the 200-meter and second in the 100-meter;
• Armstrong placed first in the shot put and fifth in discus;
• Campbell placed fifth in 800-meter, second in 2-mile and fourth in 200-meter;
• Michael Harrington placed fourth in shot put;
• Jacob Schreck placed third in 400-meter and third in high jump.
For the Lady Devils:
• The 4×800-meter team made up of Tilson, Taylor, Todd and Ponce finished second;
• Todd took sixth place in mile race;
• Stout finished in second placed in the 400-meter;
• Hicks finished in second place in the 100-meter and fourth place in the 200-meter;
• Avila finished in fourth place in the 100-meter and in fifth place in the 200-meter;
• Hawkins took first place in the pole vault;
• Peterson took second place in the pole vault;
• Carter finished in third place in the pole vault;
• Harvey finished in fourth place in the pole vault;
• Altemose took fifth place in the pole vault.
In team competition, both the Blue Devils and Lady Devils came in third place.
Upcoming meets for UCHS include competitions at Science Hill on Thursday, March 22, and Tuesday, March 27. Both meets are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.