By Matt Hill
It was a convincing win that almost didn’t happen for Elizabethton’s Abbi Pierce.
After having to pull out of the 3,200-meter run due to injury, the Lady Cyclone standout gave it a shot in the 1,600 and won the race easily at the Class A/AA subsectional track and field meet in Greeneville Tuesday.
Pierce has set all sorts of records for the Lady Cyclones track and field squad this year, but it looked dim for her yesterday.
Being the strong athlete she is, Pierce did not let things get her down and she took care of business.
“I was just trying to look forward to next week’s sectionals,” Pierce said. “I want to move on to state. The goal is always to win, but I was hoping to come at least fourth.”
Elizabethton co-head coach Aaron Wood was very nervous about Pierce’s situation on Tuesday, but that’s fitting for a man who has had a big influence on Pierce’s career.
“He is a really good coach and I’m really glad I’ve had him as a distance coach this year because I almost owe it to him. He has helped out a whole lot,” Pierce said.
Pierce also is a very good volleyball player at EHS, and back in the fall head coach Leslee Bradley encouraged Pierce to run cross country. One thing led to another and now she is one of the most decorated track runners in the history of the school as a sophomore.
“Coach Bradley is always at the track meets, and her son, Porter Bradley, runs with us,” Pierce said. “She introduced cross country to me and said it would be a good idea.”
It was an idea that led to greatness.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” Pierce said.
Kyra McCrary continued her dominance in the 400 with a victory.
McCrary won twice during the conference meet last week, and then in this huge meet showed why she is one of the best sprinters around.
McCary will be one of the favorites to advance to Murfreesboro next week at the sectional in Chattanooga.
Another favorite reach the state will be Tori Cruz, a winner in the girls shot put.
The Lady Cyclone girls continued their strong day with a third-place finish from Katie May in the 300. The girls 4×100 relay team of Elizabethton’s Allison Williams, Mandi Largent, Katie May and Kyra McCrary took second place honors in the 4×100 relay.
McCrary made four trips to the sectionals by teaming up with Largent, Pierce and May in the 4×400 relay.
The boys 4×800 relay team of Hunter Hughes, Cody Baker, Coby Atwell and Stewart Clark took second while Drew Holsclaw finished third in the boys 400.
Nikolai Simpson qualified for sectionals in the shot and discus.
Alexis Hammons had another great day for the Happy Valley Warriors, finishing second in the high jump and advancing to sectional.
Hammons wanted to advance and she achieved her ulitmate goal.
“I didn’t have as good of a day as I wanted, but it’s OK as long as I qualified,” Hammons said.
Hammons works very hard at track and field and she does special training in order to be one of the best high jumpers around.
“I do a lot of leg work outs to build my legs up, and I do a lot of jumping drills and exercises and I do back bends and form drills like crazy,” she said. “Coach Matt Estep has been great at working with me at what I’m doing wrong and fixing what I need to fix.”
Kaitlyn Simerly qualified for sectionals in the pole vault with a fourth-place finish.
On the boys side, Garrett Wood advanced to sectionals in the 100, and then Wood combined with William Luster, Brady Potter and Gabe Oxendine to finish third in the 4×200 relay.
Landon Baker had a tougher than expected day, but he did qualify for sectionals in the pole vault.
Oxendine, the boys triple jump winner at the conference meet, finished third and will compete next week.
It’s been quite a time at Johnson County High School and Jacob Henson has been right in the middle of it.
Not only did Henson qualify for the long jump with a fourth-place finish on Tuesday, he is also a starting outfielder for the Longhorn baseball team that plays for the district championship against the Unicoi County Blue Devils tonight.
Henson’s focus on Tuesday was qualifying for sectionals in Chattanooga next Tuesday, and he was able to do so with an outstanding effort against great athletes.
“I woke up this morning not feeling good, and I haven’t felt good all day, so I’m just glad to move on,” he said.
Henson is having the time of his life right now. Mountain City is buzzing about Pete Pavusek’s team that pulled two stunning upsets to reach the winner’s bracket final tonight, and Henson has played a big role in it.
By the same token, Johnson County is also talking about what Henson is doing on the track, and it’s a life he is thoroughly enjoying.
Still, you have to take the good and the bad and Henson is trying to juggle a trip to the sectionals with a possible trip to baseball regionals.
“It’s very hard, like I’ve had to make some major sacrifices both ways,” Henson said. “I’m trying to do as good as I can and please everybody.”
Though next Tuesday’s sectional in Chattanooga is being run on an opposite day of next week’s scheduled baseball games, there’s always a chance a choice will have to be made.
For Henson, he will have to consult with his coaches and his family about what decision is best for him if the problem arises.
“Every meet from now starts in the morning and I could leave after the long jump and come home,” he said.
With the Johnson County track team having success and the Longhorns’ baseball heroics, it couldn’t be a better time for Henson and the Johnson County community.
“I’m just glad to be a Longhorn right now,” Henson said. “We’re having a great year in track, we’re having a great year in baseball, the softball team got beat, but they had a great year also. It’s just a great year to be a part of Johnson County baseball and track and being a fan of everybody else.”
Mackenzie Bauer didn’t make sectionals, but with a fifth place finish in her first year running as a freshmen, her prospects look extremely bright going ahead for the Lady Longhorns.