By ZACH BIRDSONG
The number of athletes who came up to compete for the Tullahoma High School track and field teams is up this year as the squads get set to open their seasons later this week in Murfreesboro.
“We actually have more girls than boys this year, which it hasn’t been that way in a long time,” said THS Head Coach Maurice Shaw. “Hopefully those numbers will continue to climb.”
Tullahoma is scheduled to open its season by heading to the Riverdale Relays on Thursday starting at 5 p.m. Following that, Tullahoma will then head to Riverdale on March 31 to compete in the Robert James Invitational, which is slated for an 11 a.m. start.
With the heavy amount of rain in the area, the Tullahoma teams have seen their time outdoors limited due to the weather. Despite that, Shaw said he’s liked what he has seen from his team during the preseason.
“So far things are going well, we haven’t had any injuries and everybody is showing up and doing their job.”
Though the track time has been limited, Shaw said his teams have been working hard indoors on different aspects of the sport.
“We’ve been working on our starts,” Shaw said. “We work on biometrics and our bounds with our jumpers and just work on our form. Then we hit the weight room to get stronger. There are things that you can do inside, just not the running aspect of things. But, there are things that you can do inside to stay ready and to keep your body right for track.”
During the preseason, Shaw noted that he had several athletes who have stepped up and become leaders for his team. On the boys side, he noted that Elijah Walker, Connor White, Jared Sebourn, John Moore, Matt Qua and Sam Dougherty had all been taking charge of the team. Shawn then noted that Alasia Vaughn, Erin Fitzgerald, Promyse Bryson and Makenna Snipes have all stepped up to lead the girls team.
Moore returns to the Wildcats this season coming off of a year where he won two state medals, both in relay races. As a sophomore last year, Moore was part of the 4×100-meter and 4×200 relay teams.
However, the other three members of those relay teams graduated last summer. Shaw said that he still expects Moore take part in the relay events, as well as individual races.
“He’ll probably still be in the relays, but mostly he’ll take over the 100 and 200 races,” Shaw said.
Shaw said Sebourn could also be a part of the relay teams. Outside of Sebourn and Moore, Shaw wasn’t sure who else would be competing in the shorter relays.
“We just need to see where we are at right now,” Shaw said. “We have some young guys who will hopefully step up. We have some guys who
didn’t run last year and hopefully they’ll improve and we can see them step up and get acclimated to track and field as soon as possible.”
White also made it to state last season, qualifying for the pole vault. He finished 13th in the event, clearing 10 feet and 6 inches, setting a personal best in the process.
According to Shaw, he’s hopeful to see White be a part of the 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams, as well as run in the individual 800 race. White will also again be competing in the pole vault and Shaw noted that he we will compete in the decathlon.
“Connor has been working hard,” Shaw said. “He’s dedicated to the sport and he’s been an asset to have on the team. It’s a plus because he helps with the younger athletes who are trying to do pole vault. I really appreciate that because it gives me a chance to work with the other athletes in other areas.”
In the field events, Shaw said that he’s been impressed by Tydrell Mitchell in the shot put. Mitchell, a freshman, qualified for the middle school state meet last season in the same event.
Shaw also noted that he expects Brandon Cluckey to run in a pair of long-distance races. He expects Cluckey to race in the 800 race and possibly the 1,600 run.
On the girls side, Shaw said he’s still trying to plug in some athletes at the right spot.
“The girls team this year is a large team,” Shaw said. “I’m still trying to feel them out a bit on where I’m going to put some girls.”
Shaw did note that he expects Bryson, Willow Hobbs and Vaughn to all be short-distance runners for him this year. He also said Vaughn will be competing in the shot put, discus and triple jump.
In the field events, Shaw said that he expects Snipes to take part in the shot put, while Fitzgerald will compete in the long jump. He also stated that McKenna Buckner will compete in the high jump and possibly the long jump as well, while Bryson takes part in the long jump and possibly the hurdles.
Heading into the first meet, Shaw said he wants to see how his team stands compared to the rest of the field and most importantly, stay healthy. The THS coach also noted that this meet will help him and his coaching staff see what areas that his team needs to improve on moving forward.
“I’m hoping to see that we will be competitive and that we don’t have any injuries,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t look like the weather is going to cooperate and looks like it is going to be a little cooler. Hopefully, we’ll be able to warm up a bit and sprint and pull anything.
“The main thing that I’m looking forward to seeing though is where we are at as far as our training with the numbers and times this early in the year,” he added. “I just want to see where we are therefore it will give our coaching staff a chance to evaluate and see what we need to do more of or less of.”
Heading into this season, the biggest thing that Shaw said he is looking forward to is seeing how his seniors compete.
“I just can’t wait to see how some of these kids who have been running for me for four years do,” he said. “I’m ready to see them blossom. Those personal records that they’ve set, I want them to double those.
“I really want to see Elijah Walker stand on the podium for the open 800. I want to see Alasia Vaughn on the podium for the triple jump, Erin Fitzgerald in the long jump, Snipes in the shot. I just want to see those athletes who have been with me for the last four years finally get their justice. That’s my main motivation is see their progress.”
A full schedule for the Tullahoma track and field teams can be seen online here.