It was ladies night Friday at the annual Optimist Track Meet at Walker Valley High School, as several area girls either won multiple events or set records.
GPS senior Destinee Lansden won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints, while McMinn County's Haley Ward won the 3200 and 1600 runs and Baylor's Kate Kaufman set a school record in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet.
Wrapped in a pink blanket and wearing a satisfied smile, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad looked anything but intimidating. But as darkness fell over the track and temperatures rapidly dropped, Cleveland's talented junior again proven herself as one of the most versatile athletes in the state. Against a stacked field of 36 competing schools, Abdullah-Muhammad, who is interchangeable in several sprint and jumping events, won the 100-meter hurdles and long jump and helped the 4x200 relay. She ended her day with a fourth-place finish in the 200.
"You want to push yourself enough to win because there's a lot of good competition, but not too much that you get hurt with the state qualifiers coming up," said Abdullah-Muhammad, who admitted she felt hamstring tightness before her final event and didn't push herself. "The cold affects your body: It's much tougher to get warmed up and ready, and there's more of a chance for injury. But this is a great meet that prepares you for the type competition you'll see at the state."
Highlighting the boys' events, Baylor's Simon Holden ran by far the area's fastest time in the 800 meters (1:52) to edge McCallie's Jack Jones. Both runners beat Maryville's Matthew Warriner, an East Tennessee State University signee, who had the fastest qualifying time coming into the meet.
Arts & Sciences senior Patrick Taylor won the long jump and the 200 meters, and East Hamilton's 4x100 relay team of Tony Francois, Tre Herndon, T.J. Gorman and Jacob Noorbergen turned in their best time of the season to win that event. Noorbergen looked poised to also win the 100 meters but pulled up with a hamstring injury midway through the race, just as he was beginning to pull away.
"It's really disappointing and frustrating because it's the same injury that keeps coming back," Noorbergen said. "I pulled it in our last football game last season and reinjured it at an indoor meet in January. I felt it tweak a little at an earlier meet at Ooltewah, and then it really tightened up tonight.
"But we've got a good relay team and I believe if we're all healthy we have good shot at doing big things. I've never competed in the state meet, so I'm really hoping we get there. Winning this one, with so many good teams here, should help our confidence."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.