Just a few meets into this track and field season, McCallie's Jackson Burns and Nic Robinson knew their team had something special. In the end, coach Mike Wood's senior leaders were exactly right.
Under the bright lights at Rockvale High School on Wednesday night, the Blue Tornado celebrated their first TSSAA team state championship in the sport, winning the Division II-AA meet with 164 points.
"This is crazy," said Burns, a part of the 4x100 relay title team with BJ Harris, John Kohl and Eric Rivers, whose time of 42.30 seconds was .03 second off a school record. "It's been such a long time since we won a state title. I am so proud of everybody putting in the time and effort to make this last ride so memorable for a lot of us. The hard work has paid off. We love Coach Wood and have such a great staff and team, and this moment is one that will stick with us."
For a program with eight state runner-up finishes and several close calls, to be able to clear the biggest hurdle yet was huge. The last time the Blue Tornado won a track state championship was 1929, when they won the TIAA title.
Senior stars Michael May and Rivers helped put the long drought to rest as both won a pair of individual titles. May's all-around athleticism propelled him to a state decathlon championship last week at Austin Peay, and he followed by winning the 110-meter hurdles (15.07), with Robinson second. Rivers won the triple jump (44 feet, 6 inches) and was part of the 4x100 victory, and he medaled in five state events total, with his other big finishes coming in the high jump (second, 6-2), long jump (third, 21-4) and decathlon (fourth).
McCallie freshman Kavan Reynolds won the 400 with a time of 49.03, .19 second off the state's best mark this season.
Jack Braman was second in pole vault at 14-0, Burns finished second in the 100 (11.00) and 200 (22.23), and Robinson was runner-up in both hurdles events. His third-place finish in the decathlon also helped the Blue Tornado enter the day with 21 points in the team standings.
"I couldn't be more prouder for the guys," Wood said. "When you have high character, work ethic and talent that's a hard combination to beat. We have a full team almost like that. They are so supportive of one another. To watch them at practice and meets has been so much fun
"They were focused and made history. This is a special moment that we will all cherish."
Bruisers finish second
GPS seniors Nicola Van der merwe and Jane Eiselstein played pivotal roles in helping their program finish seconod in DII-AA, outdueling Harpeth Hall 106-105 for the runner-up plaque.
Van der merwe set a personal record on her sixth and final triple jump of 36-5 to win the championship. Eiselstein ran the second leg of the 4x800 relay state championship, a team with three eighth graders: Frances Bohner, Gilly Shumate and late substitution Tessie Braman. The relay team ran a season-best time of 9:54, and junior Louisa Bohner's second place shot put throw of 44-8 was within six inches of a school record.
"These seniors have been so key for our program," coach Beverly Blackwell said. "Nicola has that clutch factor, and Jane has been such a great leader for our young distance runners. These girls dominated this season and have a really bright future."
Chattanooga Christian School senior Jack Cottrell began the day by winning the 3200 in 9:38. One of the Chargers' top runners in school history was followed later by junior Carson Turner, who ran a personal best 1:55 to win the 800. Phoebe Moran also finished second for the Lady Chargers in the 1600 at 5:24.
Other runner-up finishers from the Chattanooga area included Silverdale Baptist's Avery Levitt (300 hurdles), Boyd Buchanan's JaMichael McGoy (100) and Baylor's Evie Culbreath (100 hurdles) and Jada Cooper (400).