The top track and field athletes from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will gather at Sullivan North and compete over the next two days to see who really is the best of the best.
The 31st Times-News Relays jumps into action Thursday at 4:30 p.m., when the girls and boys pole vault competition gets under way.
On Friday, the remainder of the field events will be contested starting at 4 p.m., followed by the running events set, which are set to begin at 6 o’clock.
Only the top nine qualifiers in each event are invited to compete.
Daniel Boone’s Chris Winkle returns to defend his Times-News Relays pole vault title. Winkle won last year’s event after clearing the bar at 11 feet. He is the meet’s top qualifier this year with a season-best vault of 11-6½.
All nine qualifiers in Thursday’s boys pole vault have cleared 10 feet.
On the girls side, Tennessee High’s Brittany Linkous is the top qualifier at 9-0. She is within one inch of tying the existing meet record.
When the field events begin Friday, George Wythe’s Will Sawyers will defend his crown in the discus. Sawyers, who was named the most outstanding male in field events at the 2008 T-N Relays, enters this year’s competition with a top qualifying mark of 166-9.
Dobyns-Bennett’s Tori Head, the ’08 most outstanding female in field events, will defend her crown in the long jump. She won with a leap of 17-3 last year and is tied with Abingdon’s Sarina Porter for this year’s top qualifying mark at 17-1.
Science Hill standout Jasmine Foster has dominated the throws this season and comes into the meet as the No. 1 qualifier in both the shot put (40-8) and discus (128-6). Defending champ Kim Johnson from Virginia High is seeded second (37-11).
Elizabethton’s Derek Carr is the defending champ in the boys’ 400-meter run, but faces stiff competition. Carr is seeded sixth (51.57) in the event and must overcome the challenge of top qualifier Joseph Collins (50.44) from J.J. Kelly.
Science Hill’s Lexie Burley also returns to defend her triple jump crown. She is the top qualifier in the event with a leap of 35-4½, but should get strong competition from teammate Jessica Norris (35-3) and Abingdon’s Porter (34-9).
The boys high jump competition features eight jumpers who have cleared 6 feet. Sullivan South’s Andrew Pickwell and Lebanon’s Tarell Lee top the list with leaps of 6-6.
Youth will be served when Science Hill eighth-grader Molly Foster and Dobyns-Bennett freshman Ellen Ehrenfried lock horns in the 3,200 meters. Sparks have flown each time these dynamos have met on the track this season. Foster is the top seed with a time of 11:43.55, while Ehrenfried is a close second at 11:44.58.
Tennessee High’s Jennifer Cannon and the Lady Hilltoppers’ Diamond Knox are another pair that should provide what the Times-News Relays is all about: fierce competition.
Cannon is top seed in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.47. Knox is second at 16.10. In the 300 hurdles, Knox has qualified first at 46.68, with Cannon second at 47.68.
The boys 200 has four qualifiers under 23 seconds, led by Tennessee High’s Darryl Wilson at 22.72.
Dobyns-Bennett’s girls sprint relay teams come in seeded No. 1, but have Science Hill and Morristown East nipping at their heals.
Virginia High’s Mark Waugh is the leader of the pack in both the 110 (15.00) and 300 hurdles (39.42). The Bearcats come into the meet as the top seed in the boys 4x100 relay (43.52).
Science Hill’s Edith Hill is the girls top qualifier in both the 100 (12.73) and 400 (59.41).