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Tennis, track area's top performers

May 24th, 2014 7:18 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Tennis, track area's top performers

MURFREESBORO —  Northeast Tennessee athletes racked up on the track and on the tennis courts at the TSSAA Spring Fling State Championships.

Greeneville’s Wesley Pectol won three events — the 1,600 meters, 800 and 3,200 — to lead the Greene Devils to their first ever boys’ state track title.

Pectol, alone, accounted for 30 of Greeneville’s 56 team points on Friday.

Since dropping down in classification, the Greene Devils have won seven state championships in various sports since 2009.

For head coach Larry Blalock, it was his fourth state title. He has two as the head coach of the boys’ cross country program and another as an assistant on the girls’ cross country program.

He said to have a championship track program, it takes the support of the whole athletic department.

“Cross country kids, you get a family there,” Blalock said. “This one, it takes people from different sports to come together and make a team. We had kids from football, basketball, wrestling, girls’ soccer on the girls’ team. It took everyone coming together to get us to this point.”

Blalock gave plenty of praise to Pectol for his Herculean performance and to Zach Weaver, who picked up eight points with his runner-up finish in the 3,200. He added the tone was set earlier in the week when the Greene Devils had three athletes in the decathlon with Anton Almqvist finishing second. 

“It was all part of our big plan,” Blalock said. “We knew we had to have points in the decathlon and we had a chance to win this. We had three athletes in the decathlon and two of them got us points. Anton moved up two places in his seed and Nick (Payne) moved up two places in the triple jump. Everybody either moved up or held their seed. That’s what got us here.”

Daniel Boone finished fifth in the Class AAA standings, the top-ranked team in East Tennessee in that classification.

Distance runner Adam Barnard led the way for the Trailblazers with a memorable victory in the 1,600.

Barnard ran the final quarter-mile in just 57 seconds to end in 4:10 and beat Morristown West’s Quintin McKinnish by nearly three seconds. He later added a fifth-place run in a 3,200 race with a stacked field.

Dobyns-Bennett also had a state champion with its 4x400 relay team of Bryce Barrett, Zach Casey, Sam Brown and Bryce Ailshie.

Christian Stumpf of Boone was second in the high jump and Luke Meade of Sullivan East finished third in the 1,600. Third was also where University High pole vaulter Jarod Smith finished.

On the girls’ side, Dobyns-Bennett’s Adriana Watkins repeated as Class AAA state champion in the triple jump, while Kaci Ray of West Greene had a throw of over 121 feet to win the Class A/AA discus.

Emily Schubert of Elizabethton came in third in the discus as a sophomore. Other top-three finishers were: Samantha Gudger of Tennessee High, second in the high jump, and Krystal Derr of Dobyns-Bennett, third in the 100.

Tennis

Elizabethton’s Danielle Vines lost two games, not sets or matches, but games all season, and those didn’t come until the Class A/AA state championship final.

Vines faced off with two-time state champion Skylar McDonald of Fayetteville, but it was apparent in warm-ups who was the heavy favorite. Vines, whose top serve is around 90 mph, didn’t hold back against McDonald.

A competitive match, which featured long rallies and McDonald battling for points, was a change for Vines. The closest anyone had previously come to winning a game from her was at the District 1-A/AA tournament when Sullivan North’s McKenna Smith once reached deuce.

Unicoi County had reason to celebrate as well with the doubles’ team of Mallory Jackson and Emily Lynch earning a tough three-set win over Lexie Hill and Shelby Rodgers of Knoxville Grace Christian.

For Jackson, it was her third straight final appearance after she faced McDonald in the 2012 singles championship. It was her second straight doubles championship after teaming with Nela Holkova last year, and Lynch was the third doubles player she partnered with at the state tournament.

It added another chapter to a family legacy. Jackson is the youngest of six siblings who played for Unicoi County and the third in her family to win a state title.

Tennessee High’s state championships had a Unicoi County connection as well with alum Reedy Toney now the coach of the Vikings.

It was a huge week for the Toney’s squad, who captured the boys’ team championship on Tuesday and followed it up with Matt Henson and Jacob Marshall taking the Class AAA doubles crown on Friday.

With their second state title in four years and a young team, Tennessee High is building a dynasty to rival Science Hill’s run of last decade which featured three straight boys championships from 2007-09.

Soccer

Science Hill only lost one match all season and it didn’t come until the state semifinals against eventual Class AAA champion Franklin.

The Hilltoppers, who finished the year at 21-1-1, set a school record for wins and entered the state tournament ranked No. 22 nationally. Coach Brandon Kind’s program is one which the rest of the state better take notice of. This was Science Hill’s second final four appearance in four years, following a state runner-up finish in 2011.

The ’Toppers  proved their high ranking was well deserved by beating the always tough Hardin Valley in the sectional round and then clobbering Cookeville in the quarterfinals.

Science Hill scored four goals in the first half against Cookeville before cruising to a 4-1 victory. The first goal came in just the third minute and the finishing ability of this year’s squad appeared to be the biggest improvement over past years.

Javier Alberto, Lucas Altman, Jared Lady and Miller Franklin all netted goals for Science Hill in its quarterfinal win. 

Greeneville also made the state tournament, losing a 1-0 decision to Madison Academy of Jackson in the quarterfinals. The loss came despite the Greene Devils holding a 12-7 advantage in shot attempts.

Softball

University High went into Spring Fling believing this could be the year they contend for a state championship.

Instead, the Lady Bucs were booted early from the Class A tournament after a pair of blowout losses.

Still, UH (34-10) was the only team in the immediate Tri-Cities area to make the state tournament and their season still ended on a positive note.

Senior Kutu Hall, a reserve player, hit her first career home run, a three-run shot in the final inning of a loss to Huntingdon. Other seniors — Barrett Wherry, Belle Bright, Taylor Treadway and Sarah Higginbotham — all played key roles in the tournament and throughout the season.

Bright was 3-for-4 with a RBI in the Huntingdon loss, while Wherry added a sacrifice fly. Wherry and Treadway gave UH an early lead in a 2-0 loss to perennial power Forrest before the Lady Rockets figuratively took off.

Greeneville won a couple of games in the Class AA tournament before losing to Dyersburg in the losers’ bracket semifinals. The Lady Devils ended their season 32-7 behind the strong play of junior pitcher Jordan Fortel.

Baseball

Dobyns-Bennett pulled out a dramatic eight-inning win over Brentwood on Wednesday. The Indians couldn’t follow it up later that night against Dyer County.

Still, D-B was competitive until the end with the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate in a 4-2 loss. Their biggest problem was not getting runs across, leaving 28 runners stranded over three state tournament games.

The Indians finished their season 34-6-1 and the senior class of Logan Gentry, Sammy Salyers, Christian Bailey, Payton Marshall and Kurt Mattioda set a school record with 129 career victories.

North Greene made it all the way to the lower bracket final of the Class A tournament before losing 6-3 to Grace Christian.

The Huskies finished 33-6 and had the best finish of any public school in Class A. Led by the talented pitching duo of Tyler Bailey and Troy Hall, North Greene posted two wins in the state tournament.

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