Dalton, Hughes, Bailey state runner-ups

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   CHATTANOOGA -- They didn't serve Burger King hamburgers at the TSSAA Class A/AA track meet, but Happy Valley pole vaulter Matt Dalton almost pulled off a "whopper" on Saturday.
   Dalton finished second in the pole vault at the Girls Preparatory School in an event won by Franklin Road Academy's Patrick Cleeton.
   Cleeton won the title by clearing 13 feet on his third attempt. Had Cleeton not cleared it, Dalton would have taken home the gold.
   "Looking at what people came in at, it really didn't look like anybody was over 12 feet," Dalton said. "That guy really came out of nowhere. He was good."
   Dalton had to clear his personal best of 12-6 at one point in the event, and he cleared it with flying colors.
   "I said a little prayer," Dalton said. "God helped me out with that one."
   Dalton thought he could have cleared 13, but he will settle for second place.
   "I was feeling a little tired," Dalton said. "I think I could have gotten 13, but some days you've got it and some days you don't."
   Dalton also competed in the 300-meter hurdles, and he finished sixth in that event.
   Happy Valley's David Hughes also came close to winning a state championship. He finished second in the 3,200 with a time of 9:59.
   Franklin Road Academy's Austin Weaver won the event with a 9:46.25 clip.
   "I'm just real disappointed with the race," Hughes said. "The first mile was too quick. I was struggling out there the whole time."
   Weaver, who edged out Hughes last year, is a senior. This means Hughes should be the favorite to win it all next year.
   "I'll be happy with winning the state just one time," Hughes said.
   Later in the day, Hughes once again finished second to Weaver, in the 1,600-meter run. Hughes ran a time of 4:33.21 as Weaver took the win with a time of 4:28.61.
   "It was a hard race," Hughes said. "He ran a smart race because he knew I could outkick him. That third lap, I couldn't handle that. He just went on and left me."
   Elizabethton's Lester Bailey came a hair of winning a state championship as well. Bailey took second in the 100-meter dash.
   Bailey ran the race in 11.15, while Westside's Terrance Crump just edged him out with a time of 11.12.
   "I was real close," Bailey said. "I didn't come out of the blocks as fast as I could. If I had come out, it would have been tough."
   Bailey did defeat Jamel Sankey of Alcoa this time. Bailey lost to him in the sectional, but Sankey had to settle for third this time around.
   "I feel real good about that," Bailey said. "I didn't know I was that fast when I came out of the blocks."
   With Bailey finishing second, it looks like 2003 could be his year. The near miss makes him want to get back on the track, but also makes him wonder what might have been.
   "It makes me look forward to next year," Bailey said. "I thought I was going to win it there for a second. The guy that came up beside of me was pretty fast. He's real good."
   Andrew Presnell also represented Elizabethton well as he finished third in the discus with a career-best throw of 147-11.
   "It was good, but I'm still a little disappointed," Presnell said. "I wanted to win. I thought I had a chance. I was leading through the second round. It was tough."
   Presnell missed his own high school graduation to compete in the state meet, but he has no regrets.
   "I've worked hard for six years throwing the discus," Presnell said. "A lot of people graduation -- not everybody goes to the state track meet."
   Happy Valley's Forrest Holt also did well in the discus, finishing fifth.
   "I feel sometimes, 'You could have done better than you did,'" Holt said. "But I'm pretty satisfied. It's my last year, so I had a pretty good time down here."
   Johnson County's Matt Cornett also impressed on Saturday. He tied for third in the high-jump competition with an effort of 6-2.
   That height had been a stumbling block for Cornett, but he wanted to go even higher.
   "After I got 6-2, I really wanted 6-4," Cornett said. "I think it was more mental than physical. I just jump different when it gets higher. I don't know what it is. It's a mental thing, I guess."
   Cornett finished fifth last year, so he has made an improvement since a year ago.
   "I really don't think I'm jumping as high as I was last year," Cornett said. "I've got better form this year."
   Elizabethton's Whitman Brown finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles.
   "I didn't run anywhere close to my best," Brown said after the 110 hurdles. "But from here it's icing on the cake. I'm happy to just be here, let alone get fourth."
   Elizabethton's Vince Redd did well in the shot put, placing fourth in the event.
   "It's good to come in fourth, but it's not what I came down here for," Redd said.
   Happy Valley's Bo Milhorn claimed fifth place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:05.45.
   "I just ran the hardest," Milhorn said. "I ran well, I just got beat. You don't make it here and expect an easy race. It makes you kind of feel good, even if you got last place you knew you were one of the best eight in the state."
   Elizabethton's 4X200 relay team finished seventh on Saturday night. Happy Valley's strong performance earned the Warriors a tie for third in the team competition.