Johnson City Press: Happy Valley’s Newsome vaults to state title
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Happy Valley’s Newsome vaults to state title

Jeff Birchfield • May 24, 2019 at 9:36 PM

MURFREESBORO — Happy Valley’s Natalie Newsome had plenty of firsts at the TSSAA small schools track & field state championships Friday at Middle Tennessee State University.

She finished first in the pole vault with a height of 9-feet-6 to tie her own school record. She also became the first Happy Valley athlete in a field event and the first-ever female track athlete to win a state championship.

Newsome is just the second female athlete in school history to win a state championship. She has a close tie to the first. Newsome is dating Bryce Carter, the son of Lisa Phipps Carter, who won a state title in golf for the Warriors in 1990.

The victory came after Newsome finished runner-up last season, losing a tiebreaker on number of jump attempts.

“I worked so hard to make sure this would happen,” Newsome said. “I came in a little worried because everyone was like, ‘You’re going to win.’ I hoped so, but I wasn’t sure. I was super nervous on seven (feet) and 7-6, but once I got going I was more comfortable and felt confident.”

It was the first state champion athlete for Warriors coach Matt Estep and the school’s first track champion since David Hughes doubled up in the boys’ 1,600 and 3,200 in 2003. The coach was as emotional as his athlete after Newsome’s victory.

“As good as I thought it would feel, it feels even better,” Estep said. “She has worked so hard for this. She worked since last summer and a couple of times a day the past few weeks. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”

Newsome had an unexpected easy victory. Her nearest competition went out early with Newsome beating Reilly Fury of Signal Mountain by two feet. University High’s Molly Dicus was the final all-state vaulter by placing eighth — one position ahead of her teammate Heather Robertson.

“It was a relief that some of them weren’t having their best days,” Newsome said. “I struggled a little at 8-6, although I managed to tie my p.r. again. I would have been freaking out a little more if I would have someone there with me.”

BIG DAY FOR THE BUCS

Porter Bradley gave it his all in the boys’ 3,200-meter race. He took the lead from pre-race favorite Alex Ponce of Merrol Hyde Magnet on lap 2 and held it until the seventh lap — when Ponce made his move to the outside and sprinted away.

Bradley had a strong kick as well and finished state runner-up at 10:06.55, nearly 14 seconds behind Ponce.

“I knew it was between me and Alex,” Bradley said. “I was going to let him lead, but I could tell after the first lap, he wasn’t going to let me do that. I tried to shake it, but I couldn’t do that. I felt pretty good going into the final couple of laps, although it was pretty hot out here. I think about all the work I put in. Even though I wasn’t champion, I’m pretty happy with it.”

University High also did well in the relays.

The girls 4x800 relay team of Isabelle Johnson, Camila Rivas, Anna Bader and Ali Burns finished 10:51.42 for fourth place. The boys 4x800 team of Hayden Charles, Nick Daniel, Thomas Johnson and Blake Ryan ran 8:44.67 to finish sixth. Ali Burns earned all-state with a seventh-place run at 12:58.76 in the 3,200.

Connor Ford highlighted the field events, going 10-feet-6 to finish fourth in the boys’ pole vault behind champion Colton Fulk of West Greene. It was a second straight all-state performance by Ford, who was fifth in the state the previous season.

“I felt I could have done better. I’ve done well in practice, but I’ve got to drive my hips, get those knees up and swing,” Ford said. “I have no idea why I was dropping my feet. I practiced last week at getting my knees up — but I’m happy to be two-time all-state.”

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