Local teams rev for track and field season

By Tim Chambers

   Saturday marked the first day of spring. With temperatures expected near 70 later this week, track season looks to unfold.
   Johnson County is excited about participating in several meets while the Elizabethton boys and the Happy Valley girls look to have outstanding teams. Here is a preview for this trio of teams from the Watauga Conference.
   Elizabethton Cyclones
   Coach Jim Presnell is excited about this year's squad, which has a ton of talent and could be one of the top teams in the area. Lester Bailey returns and could be a top contender for the state title in the 100-meter dash.
   Bailey was second in the state as a sophomore and third as a junior.
   Adam Turley will participate in sprints and the triple jump. He will continue his track and football career Campbellsville College after graduation.
   "If our sprinters are willing to work as hard as our distance and middle distance people, we could be a very good team," said Presnell, one of the best coaches around.
   The two-mile relay team consisting of Matt Young, Caleb and David McDaniel, and Josh Jaynes could be special.
   Presnell indicated that these guys were second in the state in cross country and he expects good things from them this season in the distance races.
   Justin Cooter will handle the hurdles while David Hobbs is expected to be a force in the long jump.
   Participating in the field events will be Derek Nave, whom Presnell feels has good potential as a shot put and distance thrower. Steven Bowers will give depth at that position as well.
   Presnell stated that some underclassmen like Chase Turley and John Morrow will get better because of their good work ethics.
   Brad Osborne will participate in the decathlon. According to Presnell, "Osborne can do a little bit of everything."
   The Lady Cyclones are young and will need to improve as the season goes on.
   Valnessha Redd is the ace in the hole for 'Betsy. Redd was the state champion as a freshman in the long jump and last year was runner-up in the long jump and triple jump.
   Presnell stated that "Redd has the potential to be all-state in multiply events."
   The 'Clones are counting on Jessica Carpenter to help in the middle and long-distance runs. Carpenter was all-state in cross county last season and will continue that job with Milligan College after high school.
   Lindsey McAmis and Regina Basconi, two freshmen, will see action as distance runners. Katie Presnell will hold down the 400 and 800-meter positions and will run relays too.
   Presnell, a senior, will be counted on for leadership with so many younger participants.
   Sharlyn Schmidt is a sprinter that is getting better every day.
   "We are short on numbers so we might have trouble putting someone in every event," said Presnell. "We hope to get some more girls out in the next few days."
   With Presnell at the helm, the Cyclone track team is like people with All-State insurance -- they're in good hands."
   Happy Valley
   "Young and inexperienced," are the words from long time track and field coach Don Verran. "This will definitely be a challenge," he said.
   Daniel Dover could be a very good thrower in the shot put.
   "He is very strong and works hard on his own," added Verran.
   Vince Hodge is slated to fling the discus.
   The middle distance events will be handled by Greg Swafford, who does a nice job in this realm.
   Dustin Green will tackle the mile and two-mile runs. Green has good stamina and will be solid in this field.
   "With the weather conditions like they are, we have gotten very little work," said Verran. "Hopefully we can work on our pole vaulting and high jumping and find out who can compete in these event."
   "A bright outlook for the girls on Warrior Hill," stated Verran.
   Katie Williams returns after a third-place finish in the two-mile run last year. Williams will handle the mile run as well.
   Ashley Flynn, all-state in cross country, will be a very special runner in the middle and long distance runs. Shanna Raines and Jennifer Raines will be counted on as distance runner too.
   Kelia Williams, school record holder in the shot put, returns and could take her skills to the next level with hard work. She narrowly missed out of going to the state last season.
   The sprints are in good hands with several good freshman prospects. Chelsey Whitlock has tremendous ability, as does Samantha Canter and Candace Hollifield.
   Carlene Hughes will tackle the 100-meter hurdles while Ashton Irick looks strong in the 300 hurdles. Audra Whisnant is another sprinter that will see plenty of action.
   Verran is a mastermind when it comes to track and field, so look for both teams to improve as the season progresses.
   Johnson County
   Little experience but much excitement is a good way of describing the Longhorn boys track team. After losing Matt Cornett, the 'Horns hope to get better with each and every meet.
   Daniel Cranford will be counted on to lead the Longhorns. Cranford is the Longhorns version of "Nanu," a character found in Walt Disney's 1973 movie The World's Greatest Athlete."
   Nanu did it all and so will Cranford. Sprints, shot put, long jump and high jump are on the Cranford docket.
   Jes Hieronymus, Ryan Snyder, Chris Snyder, Justin Genaille and J.D. Matheson will be counted on in the distance races.
   The 4x100 relay team of Cranford, Ernie Hodges, T.R. Smith and Ian Prudhomme could be fun to watch.
   "Prudhomme is very fast and the other three possess good speed," said head coach Mike Atwood. "We look for our boys team to be better overall."
   The Lady Longhorns will pin their hopes on three-sport athlete Ashley Howard to bring respect for its track team.
   "Ashley is a super athlete and will do a great job for us," added Atwood.
   Alisha Cuddy, Kelly Wilson, and Rocky Manuel are back but depth could pose a problem for Johnson County. Atwood indicated "that his squad was young and inexperience but would see how it goes throughout the season."
   Jennifer Bryant, Jenny Tugman and Cassandra Robinson will be counted on as runners for the maroon.
   "We just hope to improve after each meet," remarked Atwood. "We will continue to work hard to try and field a competitive team in both the boys and the girls."
   (Tomahawk sports editor Matt Hill contributed information on Johnson County)