With personal bests and solid performances coming in droves, the Unicoi County High School track and field program couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) meet last week.
After a botched exchange with a baton earlier in the 4×100-meter relay race, the Blue Devil 4×400-meter relay team rallied to cap off the night with an exciting victory on Thursday, April 21, at Sullivan North High School.
With excitement raining down under the lights, Donnie Metcalf, John Campbell, Jose Ortiz and Warren Shelton wrapped up a very important showing by UCHS, according to head coach Megan Davis.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our teams,” Davis said. “We’re constantly battling other teams with numbers. There are teams with 45 or more and we have a solid 25, but they’ll do everything they can to get that one point. It was a tradition that (former head coach) Randy Brewer started here and we’re looking to continue that. I’m really proud of the kids.”
Ortiz took in the excitement after the meet and gave praise to the team. The Blue Devil also added a second place finish in the 200-meter.
“I try to not think about the races,” Ortiz said. “I just try to relax and when I hear the shot, I just go and try to run my best.”
Ortiz is one of a couple of Blue Devils, including Cameron Higgins, who participates in track and soccer. While his schedule stays busy, Ortiz said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It is very difficult at times,” he said. “It’s hard to do, but I love it.”
Lady Devil junior Stephanie Wisse also wrapped up a busy night by taking home the TRC most valuable runner award during a ceremony following the meet. Wisse took home top honors in the 100-meter hurdle and triple jump, but saw rival Autumn Thomas, of Elizabethton, earn wins in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
“We’ve really put a lot on Steph,” Davis said. “She’s such an athlete, but she’s battling through it. I know it was tough for her to come right out of the hurdles to run. The rivalry with Autumn is something special and something both athletes can look back on.”
UCHS also defended the 4×800-meter trophy earlier in the meet in dominant fashion. The squad saw Megan Todd, Kaitlyn Tilson and Alexis Harvey return from last year with Maria Rodriguez as the new addition to the team.
Todd, who also earned a second-place finish in the 3200-meter, had nothing but praise for her teammates following the win.
“My team did a good job of setting me up and putting me in position,” Todd, who ran the last leg of the relay, said. “I need to work on my time so I can continue to get better and work toward sub-sectionals.”
No pole vaults were conducted Thursday, but UCHS used a 10-foot vault from Andrew Bowen and Laura Rogers finishing at seven feet during their Greeneville meet on Tuesday, April 19, to pick up co-conference titles in both events.
“We had some really good vaults coming from Tuesday,” Davis said. “That allowed us to get first in boys and girls.”
For Bowen, it came down to the help of the coaches.
“Luckily, I have the best coaches in the world,” Bowen said following up a run in the 3200-meter race Thursday. “They just got us a new pole vault pole because the one we had was a few feet bigger than what we actually needed. The new pole really boosted our self esteem. With this new pole, I was expecting to PR, and I was able to do it.”
The same went for Rogers, who added she wanted to tie her personal record from last year.
“I’ve been working on it all year,” Rogers said Thursday. “I finally got it. I knew I needed to get that vault to get first for conference. I was just really working hard and trying to match my PR. We’ve all been practicing really hard and at the meet on Tuesday a lot of us were able to get PRs and we worked hard yesterday at practice to focus on our events.”
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UCHS was scheduled to compete in a meet in Morristown on Tuesday, April 26, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
A meet a Science Hill on May 3 and the annual TriCitiesSports Relay, formerly called the Times-News Relays, on May 6 await the Devils and Lady Devils as they continue preparing for the postseason.
The second leg of the postseason is scheduled for May 10 at Greeneville and events are expected to go all day.