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Track athletes advance to sectional meet

By Curtis Carden

The Blue Devil 4x400-meter team, pictured from left, of John Campbell, Donnie Metcalf, Warren Shelton and Jose Ortiz were busy at practice on Friday, May 13, preparing for the TSSAA A/AA Sectionals. The team set a school record with a time of 3:37.52 during the Region 1-A/AA sub-sectionals on Tuesday, May 10, in Greeneville. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Curtis Carden)
The Blue Devil 4×400-meter team, pictured from left, of John Campbell, Donnie Metcalf, Warren Shelton and Jose Ortiz were busy at practice on Friday, May 13, preparing for the TSSAA A/AA Sectionals. The team set a school record with a time of 3:37.52 during the Region 1-A/AA sub-sectionals on Tuesday, May 10, in Greeneville. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Curtis Carden)

Half of the Unicoi County High School track and field team is currently vying for tickets for the Spring Fling after coming off a successful week at the office.

Lady Devils Stephanie Wisse and Megan Todd led the way with first-place finishes last week, while the Blue Devil 4×400-meter relay team set a new school record during the TSSAA sub-sectionals held on Tuesday, May 10, at Greeneville Middle School.

With more than 10 athletes earning bids to this sectional meet, which is scheduled to take place at Christian Academy of Knoxville on Thursday, May 19, the success comes from the determination by Blue Nation competitors, according to head coach Megan Davis.

“It’s all the work they put into it,” she said during Tuesday’s meet. “Athletes in general, especially teenagers, need to feel that success. There’s only so much talking myself or coach (Thad) Higgins can do.”

The Blue Devils capped off the night in exciting fashion, capitalizing on their success at the District 1-A/AA meet, by finishing second in the 4×400-meter relay. It was an exciting night for the group, which features Donnie Metcalf, John Campbell, Jose Ortiz and Warren Shelton, learning their final time (3:37.52) surpassed the previous school record of 3:38.

“The 4×400 boys have really turned it up,” Davis said. “It’s been fun to watch them grow as the season goes on. John is really the only distance runner, then you have all sprinters. Warren (Shelton) has really taken over as a leader for the guys and girls. It’s his last year and he’s working hard to see it continue.”

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Wisse set the tone for the Lady Devils by taking an overwhelming lead in the 100-meter hurdles and not looking back in a first place finish (16.11). While earning second in the triple jump (33-11), the junior added another fun bout with Elizabethton’s sprinter Autumn Thomas.

While Thomas nipped Wisse in the 200-meter, Wisse was able to avenge a loss from district meet by defeating Thomas in the 100-meter dash (12.78).

“Stephanie has been working her tail off all year long,” Davis said. “She runs events back-to-back and today she found a way to beat one of the best in the state. Autumn is no joke by any means. It’s been a great competition of the years, but Steph is peaking at the right time.”

It was all about keeping the right approach heading into Tuesday, Wisse said.

“Last week’s relay really helped me,” Wisse said explaining her award-winning performance during the TCS Relays from the week before. “I just carried over that mindset into today. It’s been a great day for the team.”

Todd took home first in the 3200-meter run (13:15.05) and third in the 1600-meter (6:06). The sophomore was also busy with the Lady Devil 4X800-meter team, which consists of Todd, Maria Rodriguez, Alexis Harvey and Kaitlyn Tilson. The team set a new personal record while taking second place overall (11.21).

Other qualifiers from the Lady Devils included the 4×400-meter team made up of Daniela Martinez, Jillian Taylor, Rodriguez and Harvey as an at-large bid.

The senior group will all be part of Thursday’s sectional meet, thanks to Teah Sifferd qualifying in the long jump (13-03) and Laura Rogers taking third in the pole vault, who improved on her personal best. After clearing 7’6, Rogers wrapped up the event by vaulting eight feet.

“It felt great,” Rogers said. “I’ve been working hard to get ready for this meet. Everything just clicked today.”

Blue Devil Andrew Bowen will join Rogers at sectionals after he earned fourth place on Tuesday, by clearing 10 feet in the pole vault. Cameron Higgins will also represent the Blue Devils down in Knoxville after earning an at-large bid in the discus event.

The qualifiers are currently gearing up for the final leg of the season by practicing at Kermit-Tipton Stadium.

“Obviously it’s very nice for us to come over here to Science Hill and prepare here, but these practices are just about getting focused for sectionals,” Davis said on Friday, May 23. “We’ve talked to the kids a lot about their work and about how it’s there and just how we can transition it to try to get to state. We’ve got a lot of kids that really have good shots at making it to state.

“It’s tough for us in the A/AA division to make it to state, only eight get to go and AAA takes 16. We’ve just got to stay focused for this upcoming week on what we need to do and keep working individually. Our kids are ready … they’ve turned it on and they’re ready to go.”