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UCHS track and field athletes compete at sectional

These athletes represented Unicoi County High School at the sectional meet recently held at Science Hill. They are, pictured from left, Megan Todd, Natalia Mendoza, Kenny Perciful, Kody Lewis, Halie Hawkins, Rachel Altemose and Alexis Harvey. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils gave it their all, but they fell short of earning berths in this week’s Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.

On May 11, Unicoi County High School track and field athletes competed in the Section 1 Large School meet held at Science Hill High School. This was the first sectional meet for UCHS athletes since the school moved into the large classification and for the first time since 2014, no Blue Devils or Lady Devils qualified for the state meet.

“The change in classification is very difficult for our program, but more so for our athletes,” UCHS head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “We do hold our kids to a very high standard and that standard has not been lowered at all. We are pushing our kids more than we ever have. But, we do have disadvantages going into a sectional meet because we are one of the smallest schools in this new classification. A lot of the schools who moved up and previously had multiple state competitors are now sending one or two, or not getting that chance.”

Blue Devil sprinter Kody Lewis competed in both the 100- and 200-meter races on May 11, finishing in ninth and 14th places, respectively.

“Kody ran personal bests in both events at sectional,” Davis said. “He has done that almost every meet. He is where we need him to be as a sophomore. He faced a lot of tough competition and we are proud of what he did.”

Also representing the Blue Devils was sophomore Kenny Perciful, who recently joined the team after moving to Unicoi County from North Carolina.

“Coming into a new school and making sectionals in the shot put was big for him,” Davis said. “We are excited to see what he can do for us next year.”

Junior Halie Hawkins, who earned a tie for fourth place in the state pole vault competition in 2017, missed out on another state berth by one place. Hawkins turned in a jump of 9’-6” at the sectional.

“We were disappointed by the results, but at the same time we are very proud of how Halie jumped all year,” Davis said. “She broke the school record this season. She has really put herself on a whole new level of vaulting with this year’s success.”

Also vaulting at sectional were senior Alexis Harvey and freshman Rachel Altemose.

“Making it to sectionals was a big step for both of them,” Davis said. “It was a good way for Alexis to end her UCHS career. For Rachel, competing against larger schools is a huge success for her and shows we are going in a good direction with our vaulting program.”

Senior Megan Todd raced for the Lady Devils in the 1-mile and 2-mile events.

“Megan ran well against some really good competition,” Davis said. “We were proud to watch her run. She ran a very good race in the mile on a very hot day. She finished her career out in a strong way.”

Junior Natalia Mendoza competed for UCHS in discus.

“Natalia threw well,” Davis said. “Again, with the new classification, she didn’t end with a high ranking, but the throws she had were successful for her. It was good to see her throwing at a high level after missing last season because of an injury. We are excited to see what she can do in her senior season.”

Despite the frustrations of the change in classification, Davis is hopeful about the future of UCHS track and field.

“It is unfortunate for our athletes and for a lot of programs who have moved up,” she said. “But, it is something we want to rise to the challenge of. Our goal, although we aren’t getting to state this year, will continue to be making it to Murfreesboro.”

Following the conclusion of the season, the Blue Devils and Lady Devils presented three athletes with team awards.

Jillian Taylor was the program’s 2018 Blue Devil Award recipient. Kody Lewis was chosen 2018 Blue Devil MVP. Megan Todd was chosen 2018 Lady Devil MVP.