Jun. 22—Tuscola's track and field season began in a cold rain at A.C. Reynolds on March 8 and ended in a 96-degree day at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3A State Championship in Greensboro on May 20.
The Mounties track program was led by Danny Williamson, who coached Western Carolina University's track program for 34 years, and Kevin Fitzgerald, who also coached Tuscola's cross-country and swim teams.
They were assisted by Nick Roknich, a recent Tuscola and Mars Hill University graduate, who guided the hurdlers and sprinters, and Bob Clark, who handled the discus and shot put throwers.
All of the nine regular season meets featured between five and 15 schools ranging from Class 1A through Class 4A.
Add on the 27-team NCHSAA 3A West Regional meet and the NCHSAA 3A State meet, there were no chances to coast to victory at any event this season.
Track and field, like swimming, awards individual competitors points in each event which are then added up for a team total.
Tuscola girls top 10 in the region
As a team, the girls finished third in the Mountain 7 3A Conference and seventh (out of 27 schools) in the region. They tied with Pisgah for 34th out of 48 schools in the state.
Junior Eva Rinker and senior Anneke Lam were the top individual performers this season.
Rinker's main event was the 800-meters and she won both the conference and the region titles. She ran a personal record (PR) of 2:21.14 at the regional meet and a quarter-second slower at the state meet where she finished third, scoring the team's only points.
SEE ALSO: Athletes represent Haywood at state track meet
Rinker also won the 1600 at the conference meet in a time of 5:43.20.
Rinker's other PRs were 1:02.48 in the 400-meters, 5:33.15 in the 1600-meters and 12:25.65 in the 3200-meters.
That strength helped her run many anchor legs for the 4x400 and 4x800 relay events, helping her team win at the conference meet and qualify for the regional and the state meets. The 4x800 finished eighth and the 4x400 was 16th.
Lam's best events were in the field events, which provided a great complement to Rinker's track abilities.
Lam won both the conference and regional meets with clearances of 5 feet, 2 inches, in the high jump. At the state meet, she finished in ninth place.
Lam also triple-jumped her way to third place in the conference and she just missed qualifying for the state meet with fifth place at the regional meet.
Lam is also the new school record holder in the triple jump at 32-9 1/4. On the track, she showed her speed by often running a leg of the 4x200 and 4x400 relays.
Sophomore Mikaela Hyatt won the conference with a PR discus throw of 99 1/2. In her final throw of the season at the regional meet, she added 4 1/2 feet to a new PR of 103-7, broke the sophomore class record and finished fifth.
Hyatt also earned a fourth place finish at the conference meet in the shot put with a PR throw of 28-6.
Freshman Ella Sutton placed fourth in the conference with a PR of 53.19 in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. She also placed ninth at regionals in that event. Sutton was 10th at the conference meet in the 100-meter high hurdles.
Sophomore Alexis Stevenson took third place at conference in the 800-meters with a PR of 2:37.96 and a fifth place in the 1600-meters. At the reginoal meet, she was 10th in the 800 and 11th in the 1600.
Junior Faith Dougherty closed her season with a PR of 13:14.75 in the 1600-meters to take eighth at the regional meet after placing fourth at the conference meet.
Freshman Luci Snyder-Lowe placed seventh in the conference in the 800-meters with a PR of 2:44.73 and sixth in the 1600-meters with a PR of 6:13.66.
Freshman Lilly Hill placed seventh at the conference meet with a PR discus throw of 73-2 and and freshman Skylar Ball finished eighth in the 400-meters with a PR of 1:07.02.
Tuscola boys top five in the conference
The Tuscola boys placed fifth in the conference and 16th in the region.
At the regional meet, senior Tyler Evans finished in fifth place in both the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the 110-meter high hurdles. Unfortunately, only fourth place and higher qualified for the state meet.
SEE ALSO: Pisgah, Tuscola track compete at regionals
In the shorter race, he lost out by seven hundredths of a second. In the longer race, the deficit was 0.65.
"I [feel] good about it. I ran personal bests in both," Evans said after those two near-misses in his last races for Tuscola.
Williamson and Fitzgerald told the team that the one goal is to get better every day and notch a new personal best. Evans had finished his career doing just that.
In the discus, junior Andy Brown got even closer to qualifying for state than Evan, tying for fourth place with a throw of 126-8 in the discus.
The qualification went to the athlete with the better second throw, which bumped Brown to fifth.
"I should have thrown better," Brown said.
He placed second at the conference meet and his PR was 133-5.
Backing up Brown in the discus were sophomores Stephen Brooks and Ian Barker. Brooks placed third in the conference and 12th in the region, while Barker placed fifth in the conference.
Senior Andrew Delbene was fifth at the conference meet in the 800-meters with a time of 2:16.02. He switched to the 1600 for regionals, where he finished sixth in 4:46.51. Both times were PRs.
Also returning next year is junior Jourdyn Butler, who listened to the coaches and moved his way up to fourth at the conference meet in the long jump with a distance of 19-7 and placed ninth in the region.
His season best was 20 1/2. Not done there, he increased his speed on the track and placed ninth at the conference meet in 11.51.
Track and field is a competition of the self and it is measured in time and inches.
The success of a team and an individual is measured in both how the athlete improves his or her own times, and how those times contribute to the team's overall success.
Fitzgerald said it was a great season for Tuscola track.
"It was a great season for many of the first time and returning athletes, made possible by my talented and dedicated fellow coaches, support from the families and the individual efforts of the kids," he said. "The future of Tuscola track and field is bright."
Williamson said Tuscola had many young student-athletes that really improved throughout the year, sprinkled around a few great upperclassmen who all provided great leadership.
"With the quality of expertise that coaches Fitzgerald, Helsel and Clark bring to practice on a daily basis, the sky's the limit for our returning youngsters," he said.