By Keeli Parkey
Thanks to their performances at the sectional meet held in Chattanooga on Wednesday, May 17, three Unicoi County High School track and field athletes – seniors Stephanie Wisse and Andrew Bowen and sophomore Halie Hawkins – will be representing their school at the TSSAA state track and field meet this week.
To qualify for state, athletes had to finish in the top four, or earn one of four at-large bids. The state meet is being held at Middle Tennessee State University.
Wisse, who had already qualified for the state pentathlon competition which will also be held this week, advanced to the state meet in the 100-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. She also competed in the high jump at the sectional meet, finishing in sixth place.
The highlight of Wisse’s day was a first-place finish in the 100-meter dash. Wisse was ranked ninth in the event at the sectional meet.
“We really didn’t anticipate Stephanie making it to state in the 100-meter dash,” Davis said. “It’s an event she loves, but during meets it unfortunately comes right after she runs the 100-meter hurdles so she runs it tired.”
Tired or not, Wisse blew away the competition last week with a career best 12.47 in the 100-meter dash. She will be ranked third at the state meet in the event.
Wisse also ran career bests in both the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles, winning second place in each event.
“Stephanie rose to the challenge during the sectional meet,” Davis said.
Wisse will compete Thursday afternoon in the individual events. She competed in the pentathlon after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
Bowen qualified for the state pole vault competition with his second-place finish at sectionals.
“Early in the season, with what he was jumping, we knew Andrew would make it to sectionals,” Davis said. “It was about getting him to compete at a level that would get him to state. Two weeks prior to sectionals coach (Thad) Higgins started changing how Andrew jumps and vaults. There were a lot of changes we asked him to make. That’s not easy to do late in the season and in his career, but he took on the challenge and did everything we asked him to.”
Bowen’s hard work paid off at sectionals, in addition to taking second place he also increased his personal best by 2 feet with a vault of 12’-6”.
Davis said Bowen is ranked fourth in the state meet. He will compete on Friday, May 26, at MTSU.
Hawkins, who pulled double-duty this spring by competing in track and as a member of the Lady Devil softball team, also advanced to state in the pole vault. Hawkins won the event last week with a personal best vault of 8’-6”.
“Halie came into the event ranked second, increased her personal best by 6 inches and won the event,” Davis said. “She competed very well.”
Hawkins, who will be ranked third at state, will compete on Thursday morning at MTSU.
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Six other UCHS athletes competed at the sectional, but did not advance to the state meet.
Senior Cameron Higgins, a Milligan College signee, threw in both the shot put and discus competitions.
“Cameron faced a lot of good competition at sectionals,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, he did not have one of his better days. He didn’t throw as well as he wanted to and didn’t go out the way he wanted to. But, it’s not the end of track for him. He’s in good hands going to Milligan.”
The Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team, which is made up of Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Cheyenne Wilson and Kaitlyn Tilson, also competed last week.
“They ran a really good time and faced some very tough competition,” Davis said. “All of them will return next year and we are excited about what they can do with more experience.”
Todd also competed in the 800-meter and 1-mile events at the meet.
“We are pleased with how Megan competed at sectional and what she will bring to the team next season,” Davis said.
Alex Carter represented the Lady Devils in the pole vault last week, missing out on a state berth by one spot, according to her head coach.
“Alex competed well,” Davis added. “She has come on for us late in the season and is really figuring it out. She cleared 7 feet at sectional, which is a personal best for her. We are excited to see what she can do for us next year.”