The long and the short of this week's Spring Fling track storyline is that the Chattanooga area just might have the best chance of covering the farthest and the shortest distances in dominating fashion.
On the boys' side, Red Bank senior Cole Bullock enters as arguably the state's best distance runner, Tyner junior Jeremiah Batiste ranks among the fastest sprinters and Arts & Sciences junior Brevin Sims, who already owns multiple state titles, is again the favorite in the small school division for both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. Sims is also nipping at Batiste's heals with blistering times in the 100 and 200 meters, while McCallie junior Samuel Ligon had the fastest qualifying time for the Division II 3200 meters.
Cleveland's Eric Parker, a University of Tennessee signee, is the fastest qualifier in the large school 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles with Walker Valley sophomore Skyy Craig second-fastest in the 300 hurdles. Cleveland's Blue Raiders also have the second-fastest 4x100.
In the girls' running events, Baylor's Makayla Packer would be a favorite in both short sprint events in Division II, provided she's not busy on the softball field at the same time. Packer, already an Auburn softball commitment, won both the 100 and 200 in school record times last year and would be allowed to run in those events if the Lady Red Raiders softball team isn't playing.
CSAS's Alaya Dozier has the fastest state-qualifying times in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes for the girls' small class, and Tyner sophomore Antwonike Jennings qualified second in the girls' 100 hurdles.
The Division II state meet will be held Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State University, followed Thursday by the large public schools and Friday by the small public schools.
"You could tell Cole was a natural distance runner the first time I saw him run," said Red Bank coach Hugh Enicks. "But over the last year or so his attitude toward training really changed to where he's willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to be elite. There's a difference between someone who races and someone who wants to compete at the highest level, and Cole is the type athlete a coach gets once in a lifetime, maybe.
"He's a monster who's still developing, and he understands when you toe the line there's no friends. It's about who has it and wants it most that day."
Bullock, an Ole Miss cross country signee, is used to running on a big stage. He finished fifth overall at the Arcadia national meet in Los Angeles last month and has competed in the New Balance indoor nationals and Footlocker Nationals — where the top 10 times in the nation qualified.
"The mile is more of a sprint, so I'm more of a natural two-miler," said Bullock, who owns every school distance record and has the state's fastest qualifying time in the 1600 meters and also is among the favorites in the 3200. He has logged over 4,000 miles of workouts this year and has been training in the hottest part of the day to prepare for the quick turnaround between the events at the state meet.
"It's going to be tough, no doubt, because it's the ultimate test. There's not much recovery time, and it's two completely different mindsets for those races. I've only got a couple of goals left in my high school career, and one of those is definitely to win a state championship."
Batiste, an all-state receiver who was a Mr. Football finalist and already has multiple scholarship offers, has the second-best qualifying time in the 100 meters (10.77) but also turned in the state's fastest time earlier this spring (10.67). His qualifying time in the 200 was also second-fastest, and he will compete in the long jump and run the anchor leg for Tyner's 4x100 team, which will be one of the favorites this week.
Led by Batiste, the Rams finished second in the sectional for the first time in program history in qualifying for their fourth straight appearance in the state meet.
"When we were about to run against Austin-East and Alcoa a few weeks ago, I asked Jeremiah if he was ready to run against the best 100 and 200 sprinter in the state," said Tyner coach Kelvin Watkins. "He looked at me kind of funny and said, 'Coach, you're looking at the fastest 100 and 200 guy in the state.'
"He's running with a lot more confidence this year. I think he's really looking forward to seeing what he can do against the best athletes in the state."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.