Cyclone boys reign supreme

By Marvin Birchfield

   KINGSPORT -- What a difference a step down in classification can make.
   Instead of competing for moral victories and an occasional highlight, the Elizabethton High track and field boys were in search of a championship as the Watauga Conference meet, partially rained out earlier this week, resumed on Thursday at Sullivan North High School.
   Coming into Thursday, the Cyclone team had already obtained a comfortable lead in Tuesday's field events.
   "We came into this event with 85 points on field events already from Tuesday," said EHS boys coach Tommy Jenkins, "and Whitman Brown, in the 110 hurdles, had already run his flight and remained first, so right there we finished with 10 more first-place points."
   By the day's end, the Cyclones accumulated more points (186) than any other school, giving them the victory over runner-up Happy Valley (139.5) and third-place Volunteer (107).
   That's quite a change for Elizabethton, enjoying a resurgence in its first year as a Class AA member. In recent years, the Cyclones usually fought an uphill battle in Class AAA.
   "I'm pleased we had a good number of kids to participate, and every one that competed scored," Jenkins said.
   "So that's why we have the championship."
   In Tuesday's action, Andrew Presnell set a new conference record for the Cyclones in the discus with a mark of 146 feet.
   Neal Wandell grabbed first place for Elizabethton in the triple-jump with a measurement of 40-9 1/2, while teammate Vince Redd was best in the shot-put at 44-11 3/4.
   Happy Valley's David Hughes broke the old record set by former Warrior Andy Curde in the 3200 meter with a time 10:21.
   Johnson County's only first-place finish came in the high-jump, with Matt Cornett making a leap of six feet.
   With today's festivities continuing, the Cyclones picked back up where they left off.
   Whitman Brown won the 110 hurdles by nearly two seconds over Warrior Mel Ramey at 16.0 seconds.
   Lester Bailey was fastest in the 100 meters with the time of 11.1 seconds, tying the previous conference best time.
   In the 300 meter hurdles, Whitman Brown finished first, defeating Ramey by a time of 43.1 seconds.
   A new record was set in the 400 relay with a time of 44.9 second turned in by Elizabethton, and the Cyclones would also go on to capture the 800 relay as well.
   Hughes racked up another first-place finish in the 1600 meters with a time of 4:41, defeating Todd Skelton of Volunteer.
   "It's just an average day work-out running three events, and it was a rough mile run," Hughes said. "I ran too fast but settled down and had a pretty good time."
   Another victory for the Warriors came in the 400 meters by Matt Dalton, and Bo Milhorn and Hughes were first and second for Happy Valley in the 800 meters.
   "David and Bo are pretty good competitors in the distance events, but the way the pole-vault went on like it did it hurt me a little, because both of them are better than what they did," said Happy Valley coach Don Verran.
   Wandell was voted the Most Outstanding Performer in field events, while Hughes took the honor of being named the Most Outstanding Runner.
   "I would just like to thank my mom, dad, Coach Verran and God," said Hughes.
   In the girl's competition, Sullivan North came from behind in the final events to defeat Unicoi County by four and a half points.
   "We had gotten beat less than a month ago in a county meet on the last run, and I don't think they wanted it to happen again," said coach David Piercy of Sullivan North.
   Sullivan Central finished third, and Elizabethton came home in fourth, but it was the performance of Valneesha Redd that caught everyone's eye.
   Just a freshman, Redd set four new conference records, two of which came Tuesday and two on Thursday.
   "When I go out there I have just one thing on my mind, and that is to finish first-place," said Reed.
   Redd was able to make the distance of 16 feet in the long-jump, and a mark of 33-3 in the triple-jump.
   "In the long-jump, this is my first year doing it. I tried it one time in Johnson City at a AAU track, but in the triple jump, that was my first time actually getting it measured," said Redd.
   Still ready and focused to rewrite the record book in Thursday's action, Redd struck again in the 100 meters with a time of 12.6 seconds.
   Her fourth record was captured in the 200 meters, as she posted the time of 26.3 over Unicoi County's Jessica Roller.
   "She is already going to a state meet as a freshman, and I have high hopes for her in the regionals," said Elizabethton girls coach Renee Bennett.
   Redd was also the winner of the high-jump with a leap of 4-10, which was not a new record, but still good enough for first.
   Tara Benfield was the only other Cyclone to capture a first-place finish, which came in the shot-put with a distance of 33' 2 3/4".
   "I thought we done well considering that we only have just eight or nine kids on our track team," said Bennett.
   Katie Williams of Happy Valley had a big showing for the Warriors, as she finished first in both the 3200 meter and 1600 meter events.
   "We had some good performers, but we just kind of ran out of horses," said Verran.
   It was a time of 5:41 by Williams in the 1600 meter that defeated Elizabethton's Megan Pearce, and 12:37 in the 3200 meter to give her the edge by 11 seconds over the second-place finisher.
   Two other new conference meet records were set, one by Unicoi County's Laura Clubb in the pole-vault with the height of eight feet, and Sullivan Central's relay team in the 1600 relay with a time of 4:23.
   Redd was voted Most Outstanding in field events, and Williams the Most Outstanding Runner.