Title track for Carrollton squads

Photo of hurdles lined up on track
Photo: Glenn Holmes

Corey Cusick/Times-Georgian

 

Craig Musselwhite and crew have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's in order to deliver a dynamic production over the next three days on the Carrollton City Schools campus.

For the second year in a row, Carrollton will serve host to the Class AAAAA-AAAAAA portion of the GHSA Track and Field State Championships, and the Trojan head coach and his staff have put in long hours to ensure a quality event for all involved to ring in the grand finale of the spring season.

"It'll be a late night (Wednesday) getting everything finalized. Luckily, we've got some good coaches on staff that don't mind working and getting things done. It's a process, but we're getting there," Musselwhite said. "It's been kind of good because it keeps my focus off the worries of the meet. It kind of changes your worries about the kids, so you're having to focus on the meet itself, the kids and then the things that you can't control."

The Trojans begin their Class AAAAA state title pursuit today in the field, where senior thrower and Mississippi State signee Jeremiah Pierce is ranked No. 1 in both the shot put and discus, while Joe Street is also ranked No. 1 in the pole vault with Drew Taylor right behind him at No. 2 in the event.

Robert Johnson also has a solid shot to finish on the podium and tally up team points in the shot put, as does Mike Higgins in the high jump.

"Just going back to the tradition of Carrollton track and field. We always try to put a big emphasis on the field and obviously we have some quality points there. But we can't go out there and stump our toe (today) with some kids who have been there and done that over the last two or three years," Musselwhite said.

Pierce, who is the defending state champion in the discus and runner-up in the shot put, said he's not getting too sentimental about this being his final weekend as a Trojan. It's simply a matter of going out and doing what he does best as the school record-holder in each event.

"Don't treat it like anything special. Just treat it like any other meet and just go out and do what I'm supposed to do and come out with 20 points," Pierce said.

When the action shifts to the track on Friday, Carrollton features Bryce McNealey in the 400-meter dash, Jordan Bonner in the 200-meter dash and Gary Savage in both the 110 and 300-meter hurdles.

In order to compete among the top teams in Class AAAAA, the Trojans are going to have to do what they're supposed to do in the field today and have some season-best performances on the track on Friday in the prelims and Saturday's finals.

"I'm feeling good. We've had a good last few weeks of practice. I've been training myself and using my technique to make sure everything is on point and I will make it into the finals and place at state," noted Bonner, who is headed to Purdue University on a football scholarship in the fall.

It's also been a banner year for the Carrollton girls and they're looking to go out on a high note to cap off back-to-back runs to the Region 7-AAAAA title this spring.

Freshman phenom Payton Phillips will get things started right away today at high noon in the pole vault, where she is ranked No. 1 coming in following her leap of 12-1.25 at the sectional, which is No. 2 in school history.

"She's progressively gotten better over the year. Being a freshman, this is her first year at the state meet, but she's been in big meets. So that's going to help her," noted Lady Trojan head coach Gwen Engram. "She'll have a lot of familiar faces that will be here. She said she's both nervous and excited, so we don't know how that's going to go."

The Lady Trojans have been especially strong on the track this season behind a young core of talent led by the 400-meter relay squad of Dajah Sheppard, Scout Jennings, Olivia Dukes and Fatima Edmondson, who broke their own school-record time at sectionals with a 47.40.

In the hurdles, Kaysi Franklin tied the school record at 14.93 in the 100 meters and she also qualified in the 300-meter hurdles, along with Katie Dortch.

Jennings, another highly-touted freshman, ran the second-fastest time in school history in the 400 (58.61) and third-fastest in the 200 (25.63) at sectionals, but came up just short of qualifying for state individually with ninth-place finishes in each event.

Rounding out the girls' qualifiers is the mile relay quartet of Dortch, Dukes, Jennings and Sheppard.

Engram looks forward to seeing how her young talent handles the state championship atmosphere, adding how this year has been a positive step forward for the program.

"The kids are excited about the improvement that they made and are looking forward to being better next year," Engram said. "For them to be as young as they are and in all the meets that we've had so far, they've finished first or second. They have winning on their mind, and that's a good thing."