MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Cleveland High School freshman Owen Clemons pushed and prayed his way through the 3200-meter run Thursday evening at the TSSAA Class AAA state meet.
And while he dusted his competition with a personal best where his outdoors time in the event is concerned, adding a track and field title to wrap up a school year that included his cross country state championship this past fall, athletic success wasn't the only thing on his mind.
Competing in the state's largest public school classification, Clemons finished in 9 minutes, 12.75 seconds at Middle Tennessee State University in the closing moments of the Spring Fling. He was faster in the second half of the race than the first, and runner-up Matteo Tonnos of Farragut was almost three seconds behind in a race that's just a bit shorter than two miles.
On this day, though, finishing safely undoubtedly meant as much to Clemons and his family as finishing first.
"I cut down a bunch on my miles lately because I had a seizure a couple of weeks ago. I actually have a doctor's appointment tomorrow to get a brain scan," Clemons said. "I was nervous going into the race, but I felt good going into it because it was my only race of the day. After I finished, I went over to the fence to my parents and sister, who had been crying. They said they prayed for me during the race."
Clemons' time was the second fastest in the event this week in state competition at MTSU, regardless of classification. Last November, he won the Class AAA cross country individual title with a 5K (3.1-mile) time of 15:22.47, which was nearly 11 seconds ahead of the runner-up that day.
"I want to be a pro athlete one day," Clemons said. "This season has taught me to focus on God. Whenever I am racing, I give him the glory. I was praying the whole time I was racing today. I took a big nap right before the race, and I was ready to go."
Spring Fling state track and field on May 25, 2023
Cleveland senior D.J. Adams covered 45 feet, 3 1/2 inches in the triple jump to place sixth and earn all-state recognition, a performance that came against a loaded field. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football signee's top mark would have made him second in any other classification at this year's Spring Fling, behind only Ensworth's Sammy Taylor (46-3 3/4), the Division II-AA champion.
The Class AAA field had four athletes whose longest triple jumps Thursday ranged from 47-11 /4 inches to more than 49-0.
"Coach (Lonnie White) helped me make it this far in track," Adams said. "We kept our head down and worked really hard. This was my first year ever doing the triple jump. I wish I had a couple more days in the lab, but now I am excited to report for college football on June 18."
The Cleveland girls' 4x100-meter relay team of Kyah Miller, Charice Ryan, Ella Webb and Janisa Ryan finished in third place at 47.99 seconds, with Memphis Central winning the title at 46.99 and Houston second at 47.81.
In other all-state (top-eight) performances for the Lady Blue Raiders, Charice Ryan was eighth in the 100-meter dash (12.18 seconds), while Webb was eighth in the high jump with a personal record (5-2).
For the Cleveland boys, junior Isaac Iosia was fifth in the 110 hurdles (14.87).
Ooltewah's Chance Underwood was sixth in the 1600 (4:22.51).
Hixson had four athletes finish all-state in the boys' and girls' unified division. Chase Barnard was fifth in the mixed shot put (39-11 1/2), while Ryleigh Quarles was sixth in the girls' long jump (11-5 3/4) and seventh in the 100 (14.76) to go with a seventh-place finish from Jase Moses in the boys' long jump (16-7 1/4).
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.