By Jonathan Pleasant
The Johnson County High School track team made their second official appearance of the season, traveling to Sullivan Central in Blountville to take part in an eight-school meet that included some very tough competitors like Sullivan South and Volunteer. With one of the largest teams the Longhorns has ever had, Johnson County had competitors in nearly 20 events ranging from the shot put to the long jump and the 100 meter dash.
Despite facing some serious challenges, the Longhorns held their own for the most part, and scored within the top 10 in several events, an especially amazing feat considering that the majority of the team are freshmen or sophomores. Its been a good experience for the kids, said head coach Penny Gentry. Theyre seeing schools today that they dont normally see. Its given them a different experience and weve seen a lot of competition here today. I think our freshmen did really well today. Theyre getting their feet wet; theyre seeing what its like and theyre really pulling through. I think its been above expectations. I had one boy comment that I didnt know how fast I could run and that tough of competition is going to make them better, because theyre going to run faster to keep up with them.
The meet kicked off at 4 p.m. with field events. David Eller was the teams only shot put competitor bringing in distance results at 35 ft. 4in while senior Jacob Henson led the Longhorns on the long jump, taking a fourth place ranking at 18ft. 1.75in. Henson was joined by Andy Rosado with a 16ft 9in showing and freshman Aaron Steele at 13ft. 7in. Also jumping was sophomore Tori Israel for the girls, coming in at 10ft. 2in.
With no hurdlers so far this season, the remainder of the evening was consumed by running events, where once again the Longhorns did very well. Stephanie Coffey, Brook Wilcox, and Taylor Wallace took part in the 100-meter dash for the girls and were joined once again by Coffey, as well as Kayla Tester and Melissa Mahala on the 200. Tori Israel, Lindsay Hutchinson, and Brook Wilcox, who earned a top ten at 1:18, also ran the 800-meter.
Yet, possibly the biggest finish of the night for the girls went to Mackenzie Bauer and Victoria Steagall during the mile run. Jacob Henson had a couple fourth place finishes, but I really have to give it to Mackenzie and Victoria, said Coach Gentry. They really stepped up today, coming through on the mile run in third and fifth place. We went from shivering at Unicoi to sweating here, and I think the weather plays a big part in it. The kids have noticed a big difference in being able to run today.
Hensons second fourth place finish came during the 100-meter dash at 11.83, but there were several other notable runs including J.R. Speed, Andy Rosado, and Dustin Jenkins. Rosado and Jenkins also ran the 200 along with Patrick South, Mikey Furches, and Chance McQueen. Going to the longer races, the Longhorns had Kenneth Brown, Stephen Branch, and Dylan Nichols run the 800, and Austin Norris, Antonio Holland, and Ryan Guzman on the mile.
Overall the showing was a good one, with several strong finishes that kept Johnson County in the running. With so many students on the team, Gentry admits that large meets like this one can be difficult, but even at the end of the day, the coach seemed very pleased with her teams results. Its hard to keep up with, Gentry said. You have them here and there and all over the place, trying to figure out where everyone is supposed to be. Practice is hard because we have 30 kids on a track thats not regulation. Thats very hard to manage but we do.
By Jonathan Pleasant