Disappointed in the way that the 2020 season came to an unexpected end, the track and field program is eager to get back to action. While track and field has individual and team components, the players still enjoy the teamwork and communication skills developed through competition as well as the ability to represent Cedar Shoals.
Members of the program faced an additional obstacle this offseason beyond the ongoing pandemic. The track at Waters-Wilkins Stadium was under renovation from the beginning of 2021 until the end of February, so the track and field teams found new ways to condition for competition. The team held some practices at the Spec Towns Track at UGA but when that wasn’t available, the team ran around the school’s parking lot. Track and field coach Thrandon Echols says there were a few unresolved issues without a home track to run on.
“Not having a track to train on was a big setback to the start of the season,” Echols said. “We are still working to develop sufficient relay exchange timing and starting events with blocks. It takes a lot of repetition to perform at our best.”
Cedar Shoals’s track and field athletes specialize in more running and jumping events than field events. Competitions are scored on a point system where teams earn points in each event, so it helps for teams to be well rounded.
Echols says that the teams in Cedar’s new region (4-A) this year excel at the events that Cedar does not, which could pose a problem at the area meet later in the season.
In 2019, Senior Jada David qualified for multiple state championship events as an individual. She ran the 400 in 58 seconds at state and jumped a 37’9, both personal records at the time. While David is working hard to qualify for state in individual events this year, she’s also determined to help her relay teams qualify.
“My team goal for this year is to push each other harder so that we can hopefully go farther,” David said. “I’m trying to go to state as a team like for the 4×4 relay and 4×1 relay team. I’ve experienced the state meet as an individual but I would like to experience it as a team too.”
On the boys side, Senior Stacy Lumpkin, who has dropped two and a half seconds in the 100 since 9th grade with a 44’ the long jump, has also qualified for the state meet in past years but is excited about the opportunity to qualify an entire team.
“I want my whole team to make the state meet, not just me, Lumpkin said. “I still want to make the individual events but I would like my whole team to be there too.”
While Echols hopes that several individuals and teams qualify for state, he is more focused on creating an atmosphere within the Cedar program to help the younger athletes gain experience. While Echols admits a large portion of the team is inexperienced, he is confident that the team will gain much needed confidence after the first few meets.
“My goal is to build an atmosphere where the athletes enjoy being part of the team,” Echols said. “Our numbers are low coming off a year impacted by COVID-19 so I want to work from the standpoint of building up a program where our kids enjoy being out there and competing at a high level. We want them to work hard and just have fun with the whole experience.”
The building of the program is well underway as Lumpkin, David and the rest of the upperclassmen take on leadership roles to help the newer members of the team. Lumpkin enjoys training with the future leaders of the team and hopes that he will be replaced next year with another strong leader.
“My first goal is always to be a good leader to my team,” Lumpkin said. “ The team is made up of mostly underclassmen so I want to be their mentor as well as a good leader for the program.”
Jada’s work this season has not gone unnoticed as Echols praises the leadership skills and self-drive that Jada shows in practice every day.
“Jada is a winner,” Echols said. “She does a great job setting an example of how to compete and by encouraging her teammates day in and day out.”
Although Echols is only in his first full season as a track and field coach after last year ended abruptly, he can tell that Lumpkin is a special talent.
“He’s like a player-coach,” Echols said. “He is good to have around with helping some of the younger athletes get up to speed. I think he’s growing as a leader, and he’s getting into his stride in the competitions so I’m anticipating a great season from him.”
Cedar Shoals hosted their first meet on the new track last week at the annual Loch Johnson Invitational where they took home several trophies. In the boys competition, Freshman Devin Hester placed third in the 100 meter dash, junior Jacob Waker placed second in the 200 meter dash and the 4×100 meter team placed third. In the girls competition, junior Deshanua Foote placed third in the 200 meter dash, senior Jada David placed third in the 300 meter hurdles and first in the triple jump, the 4×100 meter relay team placed third and senior Danaya Wray placed third in the long jump.
The team will look to improve on their individual event times and team relay times as the season rolls on. The next track and field meet is the all-important Athens Area Championship on April 1st at Clarke Central.