The Lenoir City High School track team surprised some teams and had a successful meet Saturday, competing in the Oak Ridge Invitational at Oak Ridge High School.
The top finish of the day was the girls 4x400 meter relay team, which placed first overall.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that are new to track,” Jeff Kuhl, LCHS track coach, said. “I’ve got nine freshmen girls on the team and two of those on the 4x4 team are freshmen that won that race. We had been running about five minutes, so to run 4:41 is pretty special.”
LCHS senior Faith Simmons is a member of the 4x400 team and experienced her first victory of the season Saturday.
“Our team was performing really well,” she said. “The last leg was kind of neck and neck and I could just hear my coach saying, ‘It’s not over yet.’ We ended up winning that race and it was a great experience for our team to be there together. We accomplished our goal.”
Simmons decided to try out for track this year and is learning from the challenges.
She has been a member of the school’s basketball team the last four years and wanted to improve her overall athletic ability as she prepares to play basketball at Bryan College.
“Track is a very individually driven sport,” Simmons said. “It’s very individual in the sense that you have to go out there and race by yourself sometimes. It’s been very hard for me to transition into it because I had been so used to playing a team sport with basketball. It’s been good for me because it’s pushed my boundaries. Going to Bryan next year and going in as a guard, I knew that I needed to keep my endurance up and get faster.”
Kuhl has noticed overall progression, but the team has endured several key injuries.
“I’ve had a couple of kids hurt,” he said. “My key boy in the sprint relays has been bothered by a hip situation and we might get him back here toward the end of the season, but that’s been difficult. It’s been hard to put together a relay that’s been good, but I’ve got two solid legs in Cody Wilhite and Wyatt Morton. Both of those kids are going to go to Decathlon. We’ve got some sophomores that are starting to show some stuff. We could always use some more kids, but it’s been nice to pull in some kids out of football. We’re kind of building for next year.”
On the middle school side, Kuhl believes this year’s team is the most talented group he’s had since he arrived at Lenoir City.
“The middle school’s been special,” he said. “We’ve got some really good athletes. I’ve been at Lenoir City for 15 years and this is the best talent. We’ve had some really good kids come out of Lenoir City Middle. We’ve got four eighth-grade girls and this is the first time I’ve had all four girls be in the same grade on the same team. A couple of them are ranked individually in the state. I don’t like to boast on my kids too much because they still have a lot of work to do.”
Mackenzie Wilhite, Gabriella Rodriguez, Natalie Johnson and Aaliyah Coleman all started this year for the Lenoir City Intermediate/Middle School basketball team, but have also performed well on the track.
“Two of them ran last year,” Kuhl said. “The fact that they are willing to do multiple sports ... at Lenoir City, we need that. I hope that’s going to help the basketball program, too. When you have to compete as an individual, that gives you a little bit more maturity that most kids don’t have.”
Several Lenoir City athletes placed first or in the top two in Monday’s meet at Loudon High School, including eighth-grader Matthew Gray.
“Matthew finished first in the hurdles and he’s only been on the hurdles twice,” Kuhl said. “He switched up his feet and that made a big difference in his run. He’s jumped pretty well in the long jump. As far as what he might do down the line, I think the hurdles will be his best. The future is good for our seventh-graders. I’ve also got some really nice sixth-graders that are working really hard.”