EHS ready to build on last year's success

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   After a sectional championship for the boys and two individual state championships for the girls in 2002, the Elizabethton High School track program has returned to prominence after a long dry spell.
   Valneesha Redd and Tara Benfield both took home first prize in Chattanooga last May. Redd won the long jump, while Benfield was the winner in the shot put.
   They're both back in 2003, making EHS girls track coach Renee Bennett very excited about this season.
   Benfield could also be a threat in the discus, and is working as hard as she can to repeat or better what was accomplished last year.
   "Tara's practicing whenever she can, because she does work long hours," Bennett said. "She practices at night, and she gets in the weight room on one of her class periods that she can do that on. Coach Presnell is also going to help her a little bit on her discus and shot technique next week. I have really high hopes for Tara."
   Bennett believes the sky is the limit for Redd, who might just be one of the best overall female athletes to come through EHS in quite sometime.
   Redd will also be a threat to win the state pentathlon title this year, as well as in her jumping events.
   Redd is also a good sprinter, so don't expect a sophomore jinx in 2003.
   "She does a summer track league, and she jumped about five inches longer in the long jump than she did in the state meet," Bennett said. I've changed her events up a little bit. I had her in some relays and I took her out of all the relays. I've got her in the open 100, open 200 and the 100 hurdles for the pentathlon. We're going to work on that overall."
   The distance running will be led by Jessica Carpenter, who is Bennett's only distance runner. Carpenter went to the state in cross country this past fall.
   Katie Presnell will switch from being a hurdles specialist to running the 400. Jennifer Richardson will run in a variety of events for the Lady Cyclones.
   CeCil Simerly, Presnell, Richardson and Carpenter will form the 4X400 relay team.
   Amanda Ward will run in the 800 meters. Ashley McFarland will race in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles.
   Speedster Amber Hunt will race in the 100, 200 and 4X100 meter relay.
   Bennett has a strong freshman class that includes Megan Trivette, Nikki White, Jordan Whaley, Ashley Smidt, Laura Bowman and Cameron Crapps.
   Overall, Bennett is very happy with the progress this program is making.
   "I'm glad that we got the numbers back, and I think we only lost Megan Pearce," Bennett said. "That helps when you only lose one senior."
   On the boys side, the Cyclones will be trying to defend a sectional title, but could really strike it rich at the state meet in May with Lester Bailey.
   Bailey finished second in the state in the 100 meter dash last year, and should be a major threat this season after he gets finished with basketball.
   "He's a big part of the team," EHS boys track coach Tommy Jenkins said. "We've already talked about what he's going to be doing this year. He pretty much wants to focus on the 100, 200 and long jump."
   Another basketball player that will be counted on for the Cyclones this spring is Virginia football signee Vince Redd. Redd also made it to Chattanooga in track last year, and will once again be throwing the shot put and discus.
   Ben Fields and James Peterson will most likely join Bailey on the sprint relay teams.
   Andy Hobbs will be performing in the triple jump, while Chris Hobbs is expected to contribute in the 400.
   David and Caleb McDaniel will run in mid-distance events for the Cyclones.
   Justin Cooter returns to the hurdle events after qualifying for the sectional meet a year ago.
   Freshmen Logan Hyatt and Justin Connor will be throwing the shot and discus. Hyatt and Connor will also compete in the mile relay.
   Matt Young will run in the distance events, and will be a threat to make it to the state this year.
   Freshmen Josh Jaynes and Mark Ward will also run distance events, as well as Jared Cakebread and Brandon Reed.
   Jenkins thinks his team should finish around the middle of the pack in the conference, but wants to be pleasantly surprised.
   "Right now, I predict us in the middle of the pack," Jenkins said. "And if we win it that just makes it even better."