CLEVELAND, Tenn. - On an evening when two familiar names did what has become expected of them and another was a no-show, a relative unknown created the biggest buzz through the crowd at the annual Optimist track meet at Walker Valley High School.
Red Bank's Amber Dandy and Josh Robinson again were solid in multiple events, while Howard's all-state sprinter, LaQuisha Jackson, continued to rest a sore knee and did not run.
With the advantage of running on his home track, Walker Valley senior Bradley Davis staked an early claim to being the area's top sprinter, winning the 100 and 200 meters and finishing third in the 400 in only his second time to run that event. His times in the 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.27) were the fastest of the young season among area sprinters.
"I've actually run the 100 faster, but I didn't have a good start today," Davis said. "Once I realized I had the lead coming out of the blocks, since that's the weakest part of the race for me, I knew I had it."
Davis was dismissed from the team last season, but Mustangs coach Jasen Parks said the senior's maturity this year is one reason he has high expectations.
"He wasn't a bad kid. He just wasn't serious at practice, and he liked to tell people how good he was," Parks said. "But I've seen a difference in him already this year, and he's becoming a leader for us."
Red Bank's Dandy won the girls' 100 (12.51) and long jump (17-9.5), despite scratching on her first two attempts, and finished second in the 200. Robinson won the 110-meter hurdles and anchored the winning 4x100 relay team and was second in the 300-meter hurdles.
"This time of year I'm just seeing what I need to work on," Dandy said. "I'm competing more against myself, and after today I have a lot to work on. I wasn't happy with today. I can do a lot better, but it's been tough to get in much practice because of the rain and cold weather.
"Honestly, I was disappointed that LaQuisha wasn't here. I really want to get closer to her times and see if I can finally catch her or beat her. Hopefully she'll be back soon."
Baylor's girls, who have won the last two Division II state titles, look to be deep in talent once again, winning three of the four relays (4x200, 4x400, 4x800) and finishing second in the 4x100. Five Lady Red Raiders also won individual events: Rebecca Greenwall (800), Abbie Dill (high jump), Sally Warm (triple jump), Tenley Godfrey (3200) and Hannah Jumper (1600). They had six girls finish second or third in other events.