Track season heads down home stretch

   With just three meets left before the start of the district tournament, both the Elizabethton and Happy Valley track and field squads know it's time to kick it into high gear.
   With a win in the Elizabethton match on Tuesday, the Cyclones are showing they know what coach Tommy Jeninkns talks about when he says, "It's crunch time now. The conference and regional meets are coming up soon and that's where you have to be at your best. And even that might not be good enough."
   The goal is, of course, Chattanooga and the state tournament, but to get there you have to place at least second in the sectional tournament.
   Cyclones with a shot at getting there are Whitman Brown in the 110 and 300 hurdles, Lester Bailey in the 100 meter dash and Andrew Presnell in the discus.
   "Lester had his second best time in the 100 in our last meet," said Jenkins. "Presnell had his best toss of 138'10", and Whitman had his best times in the 110 and 300 hurdles recently."
   For Happy Valley, David Hughes is almost a shoo-in to get back to Chattanooga and take another shot at the state title that eluded him last season, when he finished second in the state.
   For the ladies, EHS' Valneesha Redd looks good in the long jump, high jump and possibly the 100 meter dash. Tara Benfield is solid in the shot put as is Megan Pearce in the 1600 meter run.
   Lady Warrior Katie Williams had a good showing in the 3200 meter event on Tuesday night, with a time of 12:49.3 and Williams has always been strong in this event and could be even better than she was last year, when she fell just short in the sectionals.
   Before any of these things happen however, two Cyclones are preparing for a tough compeition at Sullivan North where Neal Wandell will throw his hat in the ring in the decathalon -- 10 grueling events designed to test, speed, agility strength and stamina.
   "It's 10 events over two days in which Neal will compete in the discus, 400, 1600, triple jump, pole vault and other events," said Jenkins. "We hadn't had much interest in these events in past years, but Val and Neal are two very good athletes, and wanted to compete. I hope the things they do well, will carry them."
   Wandell - being a football player as well as a track athlete - is of course strong and fast, but he has never competed in endurance races before and that could handicap him.
   "It's unknown how he'll do in those events," Jenkins said. "He's never run the 400 before, and he has shin splints now, so that may hold him back. We'll see where he stands going in to those races and if he has a chance to win, he'll probably want to go, if not he can sit it out."
   Redd will compete in the penathalon, which is five events -- long jump, high jump, 100 hurdles, shot put and the 800 meter run. Redd has shown very well this season in the sprints and in the long and high jump events, so she will have a solid chance going in.
   Redd, in fact, set a new school record in the long jump last Saturday with a leap of 17'4".
   Walter Brown has done well in the long jump with a leap of 18' 10 3/4" in Tuesday's competition, but Jenkins knows it will take more than that to get him past the regional level.
   "I keep track of what's going on between regions, and Austin-East and Alcoa have both had kids long jump 20 feet or better," remarked Jenkins. "He'll have to get himself in the 20-to-22 foot range to really have a chance."
   The 4x100 relay team is also a dark-horse with Bailey running the anchor leg, but Jenkins commented, "We aren't where we want to be in the 4x100. Teams from Region two can really get the baton around the track."
   In the hurdles Brown has been solid all season, and his times of 15.56 and 43.8 in the 110 and 300 events are possibly both good enough times to qualify him for the sectional, but as Jenkins said, "You have to not only be competing at your best, but you have to be lucky sometimes too. Sometimes you can give it your best shot and not have it be enough, but that's why you compete."
   Benfield tossed a 35'5" shot put throw on Tuesday and coach Renee Bennett said of her, "Shot put is definately her best event. She throws discus as well, but shot put is her best event."
   If she continues to progress, she could have a shot to get past the sectionals, but coaches right now are loath to talk about future meets preferring to, "take them one at a time."