Sevier County sends relay team, two individuals to state in 400 meters
Hunter Miniard called it a man’s race.
The 400 and its sibling, the 1,600-meter relay, require the strategy of a longer race with the sprinting of a shorter distance. You can't sprint the whole race or try to get by without a plan.
“The 100 and 200, you don’t really have time to think before it’s over,” said Sevier County junior Connor Bailey. “The 400, you’re still sprinting but you’ve got a little time to think and compete. Someone gets a little edge on you, you can kick. If you got to catch somebody, if someone’s coming up on you, you’ve got to go. It’s a competitive race. Me, I play football. It’s the correlation of being competitive and a competitor.”
The distance brought out the best in Bailey and the Smoky Bears on Saturday. Bailey won the boys 400 title at the Section 1-AAA track and field championships on Science Hill’s Sidney Smallwood Track before joining forces with third-place finisher Brandon Laws, Austin Rice and Hunter Miniard to finish second to Dobyns-Bennett in the 1,600-meter relay. The school-record time of three minutes, 24.07 seconds in the latter sends a Sevier County relay to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s state championships for the 10th straight year.
“That’s quite an accomplishment, I think,” said Bears coach Jonathan Brewer. “I hope our community and school appreciate what these guys have been able to do for the last 10 years. We got to keep it going tonight.”
Competitors in the top four in each event advance to the state championships in Murfreesboro later this month. Both Laws (50.48) and Bailey (49.47) will get to compete as individuals in the 400 as well as on the 1,600 relay team.
Hunter Miniard will also run two races after finishing third (41.04) in the 300-meter hurdles. He made it to Murfreesboro for the first time despite knocking over a handful of obstacles.
“Oh my gosh, you don’t know the feeling,” Miniard said. “I was tied for fourth going into the race. I convinced myself if I just go out there and attack it, I’d go to state. I’m so ready for it, too.
“It’s a mental mindset. I clipped that first hurdle and I still convinced myself I could go to state.”
Seymour brought eight competitors to Saturday’s meet and came closest to advancing with a pair of top-10s from sprinter Camille Davis. The sophomore went 1-2 in the second heat of the 100 (13.09) and 200 meters, finishing just .12 seconds from qualifying in the 200. She still finished that race in a school-record time of 26.27 seconds.
“There’s a lot of talent in this region,” Davis said. “The fact that I finished top-two in my heats makes me really happy. Overall, I’m proud of myself for today.”
Patrick Schumacher added a personal best in the 1,600, finishing 10th in 4:39.19. He was 16th in the 3,200 in 10:22.66. Victoria Nelson was 15th in the girls triple jump (30 feet, two inches) and just outside the top 10 with an 11 in the discus (96-11).
Bailey’s day started with disappointment in the long jump where his leap of 21-4 1/4 was five inches short of qualifying position. He scratched on two of his four attempts. The Eagles’ Nick Sexton had the same trouble, scratching on his first three tries before finally completing a good jump on his final attempt.
“You practice all week,” Sexton said. “You hit, you hit. You run through, you hit. And then you come out here and you’re an inch over every time. You get loose and I didn’t scoot back an inch and a half, which I should’ve done looking back. It’s super frustrating.”
Seymour coach Gary Stinnett said he was happy with the number of Eagles that made it to Johnson City on Saturday. The next step is getting his athletes into those top four spots.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of young kids,” Stinnett said. “We’re looking to compete all the way across the board. … We’ve got a good staff. We’ve got some kids that want to work.”
The work paid off for Sevier County in the 400, a distance Brewer said the team started focusing on early in the season.
“That’s what we worked on and that’s what we thought was our best shot at making it,” Rice said. “We just all started training for it, ran really good times. We all had real good individual times. Put it together, that’s a good 4-by-4.”