Redd, Benfield rise to occasion

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   CHATTANOOGA -- There was a country song out a few years ago called "Five Minutes." Friday afternoon at the TSSAA state track meet, Valnessha Redd and Tara Benfield figured out how to win state championships five minutes apart from each other.
   Redd took home the gold in the long jump, while Benfield won the shot put in Class A/AA action at the Girls Preparatory School.
   "They both deserve it," EHS girls track coach Renee Bennett said. "Tara works very hard at the shot -- she's very determined. Valnessha is an all-around athlete. She deserves that, too, for so much that she does."
   Redd jumped 17-2.00 on her second jump. It was an effort that excited the freshman.
   "I was thinking, 'Yes, my steps are on,'" Redd said.
   Redd's last two jumps caused reason for concern. She ran over the line to register a jump of three feet on her third attempt, then scratched on her final jump.
   But the second jump was good enough as nobody could leap any farther.
   "I feel great," Redd said. "I'd like to thank God for my talents. I'd like to thank everybody who coached me -- Coach Bennett, Coach (Tommy) Jenkins and Coach (Jim) Presnell."
   Winning the state as a freshman is a phenomenal accomplishment, and Redd is looking forward to defending her crown.
   "It makes me look forward to another year," she said. "It makes me feel good that I can do stuff like this."
   Redd also competed in the triple jump and high jump, finishing fourth in both events.
   She took part in the pentathlon earlier in the week in Nashville, taking third in that event.
   Bennett thinks this is only the beginning for Redd.
   "I have high hopes for her," Bennett said. "We're going to work her on some hurdles this summer so that she can move up in the pentathlon. She'll have four medals when she leaves here today."
   A short time after Redd won the long jump, Benfield took first in the shot put. Benfield won the event with her final throw, which covered 35-00.25.
   "I was just happy being here," Benfield said. "I didn't care what I made. I wasn't expecting to get first at all."
   Bennett praised Benfield's work ethic.
   "Tara works really hard at shot," Bennett said. "She's very determined."
   Bennett says that Benfield had to make special accommodations for her practice times.
   "She has an after-school job, and she works about 20 to 30 hours a week doing that," Bennett said. "She throws at night in her back yard. She really doesn't get to come to practice when everybody else does. She'll throw at night in the dark -- that's when she gets her practice.
   "That's kind of a hopeful story right there, somebody that has so much to do -- go to school, then go straight to an after-school job and not have time to practice."
   Happy Valley's Katie Williams didn't do badly, either, as she finished third in the 3,200 with a time of 12:08.72.
   Anna Giles from Christian Academy of Knoxville, the girl that beat Williams in the sectional, won the event with a time of 11:22.74.
   Williams' time was a school record and her personal best.
   Giles will be back next year, but Williams hopes to be right on her tail next season.
   "I'm just glad to see that I can compete with the other girls," Williams said. "Even though I'm not up to Anna's level yet, I hope to be next year."
   Williams also competed in the 1,600 and finished sixth with a time of 5:42.39.
   Williams was a little disappointed with that result.
   "I'm stuck," she said. "I keep running 5:40s and a I wanted to break 5:40."
   Happy Valley girls track coach Scotty Verran is very proud of Williams for what she's accomplished.
   "Words can't describe how proud we are of her," Verran said. "She finished third in the state, and ran the two-mile and the mile today in the state track meet. That's outstanding."
   There was another Carter Countian who took home the gold on Friday. Elizabethton resident and Dobyns-Bennett standout Morgan Hyatt repeated as Class AAA shot put champion, and won her first discus title.
   "It was my third time down here for the discus, and I had yet to win," Hyatt said. "My goal was to win in the discus. Being defending state champion in the shot put, that kind of what put a little bit of pressure, more or less. I tried to use that to my advantage. I had to put my faith in God, and come down here and throw to the best of my ability."