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Jeffers, Barrett, Meade, Varghese dig up state gold

STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • May 28, 2016 at 1:19 AM

MURFREESBORO — Following a largely tough week for area athletes at the 2016 TSSAA Spring Fling, Friday turned out to be golden in the boys’ track and field championships.

Dobyns-Bennett’s Jordan Jeffers started the haul with a state title in the Class AAA triple jump. Sullivan East’s Luke Meade followed with a championship in the Class A-AA 1,600 meters and D-B’s Bryce Barrett turned in another championship performance, this time in the AAA 400 meters. Meade returned to take his second gold of the day in the A-AA 800 meters and Daniel Boone’s Ben Varghese capped the day with a win in the AAA 3,200.

For Barrett, it was his third overall state championship but his first individual title. After finishing second in the 400 to teammate Bryce Ailshie last year, Barrett said winning this year was the goal all season.

“Winning any state title means a lot to me, but I’m glad to win an individual,” Barrett said. “It means I had to do it all by myself and it’s very satisfying.”

Barrett (47.83 seconds) held off a late charge from Germantown’s Xavien Hughes (47.84).

“My first split at 200 meters was 21 flat,” Barrett said. “That’s really fast. When I hit the final stretch, my legs were gone and I had to just do whatever I could to hold on. I just dove at the line and got him by a hair.”

Barrett joined Teddy Gaines and Darwin Bond as the only Tribe runners in program history to run a sub-48 400.

“To be put in the same category with those guys is just such an honor,” Barrett said. “It’s just really, really special.”

Barrett qualified in four events at state, but after running a second faster than his previous personal best — and in 90-degree weather to boot — he had nothing left to give in the 200 and the 4x400 relay, where the Indians were two-time defending state champs.

“By the time I got back to the tent after the 400, my coaches had already taken me out of the 200,” Barrett said. “I was feeling better during the 3200s, but then when I got up to get ready for the 4x400, I got wobbly again and almost passed out and our trainer wouldn’t let me run.”

Jeffers jumped 45-5 to win his state title.

“It feels amazing to have been triple jumping for just three years and be the state triple jump champion,” he said. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Teammate Alijah Dunn was runner-up after a leap of 44-7¾, and the Indians placed sixth overall with 28½ points.

East’s Meade added state titles Nos. 3 and 4 to his collection. After winning the 3,200 last year and the A-AA cross country title last fall, he won both the 1,600 and 800 this year.

Meade, who was fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and runner-up last year in the 1,600, raced to an easy win this time in 4:24.73.

In the 800, his final high school event, Meade had little room to spare and even employed a block to the inside to hold off Knoxville Catholic’s William Doktycz by 0.09 seconds, winning in 1:59.09.

The Patriots also got a fifth from Peyton Kegley (15.61) in the 110-meter hurdles. The duo combined for 24 points, good for eighth in the Class A-AA team standings.

Varghese’s victory in the 3,200 (9:30.81) salvaged a frustrating day for Boone, which had a pair of other state titles slip from its grasp.

Running the third leg in the 4x800 relay, Varghese became entangled with Science Hill’s Noah Charles while trying to make a pass for second. Varghese went down but recovered and, combined with a stellar effort from anchor Josh Routh, the team was able to rebound for second (7:58.10), less than a second behind winner Brentwood.

Routh was sixth in the 1,600, Noah Shelton tied for fifth in the high jump (6-2) and the ‘Blazers placed fifth in the team competition with 32½ points.

Other local highlights included Cherokee’s Fletcher Hickman, who ran a school-record time of 39.03 to finish third in the AAA 300 hurdles; Science Hill’s Malick Gemechu, who was third (9:34.20) in the 3,200; and the Hilltoppers’ Alex Crigger, who was eighth (4:21.00) in the 1,600.

In Class A/AA, Sullivan South’s Tyler Youngblood was third in the 1,600 (4:35.54) and Grant Ward finished eighth in the shot put (39-3).

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