By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
NATCHITOCHES – Nine event champions and 32 state meet qualifiers from Caddo and Bossier Parish schools emerged from the Region I-5A track and field meet on a wild weather Wednesday at Northwestern State’s Walter P. Ledet Complex.
A late-morning lightning strike across the street at Turpin Stadium left the timing company’s computers fluttering and sent everyone scurrying for cover. Competition was interrupted in mid-afternoon by a pop-up storm due to the chance of lightning, then just as it resumed a half-hour later, a hard downpour briefly extended the delay before racing resumed in the rain.
The meet wrapped up in cool temperatures as dusk approached, but there were bright smiles shining, especially among the Airline contingent.
The Airline boys were second in the team standings. Ruston defended its regional championship with 91 points, 18 more than the Vikings. Parkway was fourth (38) and Benton 10th (27.3).
The Lady Vikings were also tops among local teams in the girls’ division, fourth overall with 64 points, just ahead of fifth-place Benton (58). Parkway was seventh (32) and Byrd eighth (29). Alexandria won going away with 114.
Airline coach Schirra Fields was fielding congratulations from his peers after the impressive performance.
“You always want to come out on top, but going in, we knew (the boys’ team race) would be between us and Ruston. We needed a great day and they needed to stumble in a few areas, and it didn’t work out for us. Proud of the kids, boys and girls, proud of the way they competed and we set a lot of PRs today. We’re peaking at the right time.”
Airline will have eight boys and seven girls entries at next Saturday’s state meet in Baton Rouge, the largest contingent in Fields’ four years as head coach.
Parkway’s throwers had a big day, winning three times in tough conditions for their events. Lady Panthers Jayla Jones (37-0 1/2 in the shot put) and Mikaylah Williams (119-8 in the discus) were gold medalists along with Devon Oliver’s 164-5 boys’ discus triumph.
Benton senior Jamie Willis swept the girls’ hurdles, racing 100 meters in 14.71 and coming back to claim the 300 in 46.51.
“That 100 was just what I was looking for,” she said. “I wanted to break 15 before I went to state this time. The 300? Could’ve been a little better, but I’m still happy.”
She broke through in last year’s regional meet and was the hurdler to beat. Nobody could do it, although Willis credited a little luck playing a role in the 300 race.
“I still get as nervous as anybody else, because anything can happen,” she said. “That girl in Lane 5 probably woulda whooped my butt, had she not messed up a little bit. It was a tight race, so I was happy I prevailed. I did good.”
Other local winners: the Airline boys’ 4×200 meter relay (1:27.93), Airline’s Jeremiah Boudreaux in the boys’ 110 hurdles (14.77), Evan Johnson of Captain Shreve in the boys’ 3200 (9:34.39), and Jenna Key of Byrd in the girls’ 3200.
Boudreaux scored 24 ½ points, second among all male competitors. In the girls’ individual standings, Airline sprinter Kezyriah Sykes put up 26 points while Benton’s Willis notched 20 with her pair of firsts.
Trying to shake off the flu is difficult, especially when preparing to run two distance races aiming for a top three finish and a state meet berth. Key was able to overcome the obstacles, taking third in the 1600 (5:18.31) and coming back later to win a three-way battle in the 3200.
Key won in 11:27.39, stretching her lead in the final 200 meters over Raegan Monroe of Alexandria (11:29.55) and Ruston’s Parker Nations (11:35.61).
“I really didn’t get better until 2-3 days ago, so I think I did pretty good for having a down week. Running both races is tough. But I had a lot of people that pushed me, and it was definitely challenging,” she said. “I really wanted to give up (in the 3200). I thought, ‘technically, I only have to get third (to make the state meet),’ but I pushed it to another gear. I was tired.”
Soaked, too. But very happy.
Contact Doug at email@example.com