With the 2007 track and field season upon us, there is no shortage of excitement to go around. Outstanding performers from both Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia abound with several state champions back to defend their crowns.
Leading the list is the much-decorated Ashton Bishop, a senior at Gate City.
Last season, Bishop won VHSL Group A championships in the 100-meter hurdles (15.19), 300-meter hurdles (46.59) and high jump (5-5). She also garnered a second-place finish in the 800 meters (2:24.50) - a race run immediately after Bishop finished the grueling 300 hurdles.
Sullivan Central's Courtney Barnett returns for her senior campaign looking to defend her Tennessee Class AAA discus crown. She won last year with a toss of 119-7.
With state titles in the event in her first two years in the Class AA meet, Barnett is seeking an unprecedented fourth discus crown in a row. She also finished second last year at state in the shot put (37-3Â¼).
The Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers return the nucleus of their state championship 4x100-meter relay team, which won in a time of 48.18. They also finished second at state in both the 4x400-meter relay (3:57.19) and the 4x800-meter relay (9:45.22).
J.J. Kelly senior Brittany Killough looks to improve on her third-place finishes at the VHSL state meet in both the 1,600 (5:16.86) and 3,200 (11:35.57).
Elizabethton junior Justin Fuqua brought back gold from the TSSAA Class A-AA meet with his victory in the 300-meter hurdles (39.35).
And Dobyns-Bennett's Josh Vasquez is on the rise, seeking to improve on his sixth-place finish (9:47.9) in the Class AAA 3,200-meter run.
The 29th running of the Times-News Relays will be held on Friday, May 4, once again at Sullivan North High School.
Here are capsules on area teams that responded to requests for preview information:
Coach: Bob Bingham
2006 highlights: Indians won the Big 9 Conference title; Josh Vasquez finished fourth at state in 3,200 meters.
Top returning athletes: Distance - Vasquez, J.D. Hubman, Drew Lattier, Cory O'Neil; sprints - Robert Hogg, Lane Dukart, Adrian Sensabaugh; hurdles - Zach Kramer; throws - Trevor Salyer, Andrew Pappas; vaulters - Brandon Lawson; jumps - Hogg, Dukart
Top newcomers: Kevin Kaye, distance; Mo Fugate, sprints, jumps
Outlook: Vasquez and Lawson lead a deep and talented Indians squad, helping to make D-B one of the area's best.
2006 highlights: Lady Indians qualified all three sprint relay teams for state meet; Brit Brewster finished fifth in state pole vault.
Top returning athletes: Sprints/jumps - Darah Karst, Tori Head, Abbie Cooper, Mariah Maxwell, Olivia Lawniczak; vaulters/hurdlers - Brewster, Paige Brogden, Ginny Browning
Top newcomers: Laura Lovelace (transfer), distance; Blaine Frohlich, high jump, shot, discus
Outlook: The Lady Indians are deep in the sprints and the pole vault. That alone makes them one of the top teams in Northeast Tennessee.
Coach: Mark Dingus
2006 highlights: Logan Kemp (high jump) and Brett Barger (800m) qualified for regionals
Top returning athletes: Sprints/jumps - Kemp, Josh Utsman, Robert Herring, Patrick Albright, Josh Hayes, Andrew Worley, Chance Graham; distance - Aaron Longworth, Jack Salyer, Josh Salyer; hurdles - Graham; throws - Cody Likens
Top newcomers: Benjie Farmer, sprints, 400m
Outlook: Though the Cougars have depth, they lack experience in several key spots.
2006 highlights: Courtney Barnett, state champ in discus, second in state shot put.
Top returning athletes: Throws - Barnett; distance - Katye Stone, Keely Hilton, Jessica Coffey; sprints - Autumn Messer, Rachel Bays, Jessica Jones, Kayla Monroe
Top newcomers: Briana Cox, sprints, hurdles, jumps
Outlook: The Lady Cougars are young and inexperienced, though they do have good numbers.
Coach: Jackie Dingus
2006 highlights: Rebels finished third in Big 9 Conference and advanced the 4x400m relay, a pole vaulter and an 800m runner to the state meet.
Top returning athletes: Distance - Patrick Roberts, Nathan Wooden, Billy Hadden, Noah Poor; sprints - Houston Martin, Matthew Crowe; throws/hurdles - Jacob McCann
Top newcomers: Curt Phillips, sprints; Seth Watterson, hurdles; Jonathan Clemens, sprints; Matt Fickey, sprints
Outlook: Dingus' Rebels have good senior leadership and strength among their newcomers.
Top returning athletes: Hurdles - Amanda Patterson; distance - Elaine Hitch, Carly Bishop
Top newcomers: Shelley Negrotto, high jump, sprints; Casey Solt, jumps, sprints; Catherine Nanney, distance; Kindra Kitzmiller, jumps, sprints
Outlook: The Lady Rebels have doubled the size of their squad and are encouraged by the return of some talented juniors and the incoming freshmen.
Coach: Randy Irvin
2006 highlights: Vikings were second in the Big 9 and won the Mountain Lakes championship; Michael Bunche finished eighth in the state 100m.
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Dakota Fisher, John Howard, Mitchell Felix, Darryl Wilson, Matt Pendleton, Keenan Shepherd; middle distance - Corey Miles, Tyler Stanley; distance - Justin Humphreys; hurdles - Chris Moore (defending Big 9 champ); jumps - Eric Keller, Marcus Canty; throws - Rees Burt
Outlook: Graduation cost the Vikings nine seniors, including three state meet qualifiers. Quality performers remain, but depth will be an issue.
2006 highlights: Third in Big 9 meet; Brittney Trigg second in the state in the 300m hurdles.
Top returning athletes: Distance - Lili Zaldana, Carrie Haaser, Carina Cobota; sprints/field events - Frances Armstrong, Emily Morin; throws - Whitley Hounchell
Outlook: Trigg qualified for the state meet in four events last year. Her loss will be felt by the young Lady Vikings.
Coach: John Hyatt
2006 highlights: Big 9 Conference champion; Region 1 runner-up; third in the state; 4x100m state champ, 4x400 and 4x800 relay runners-up.
Top returning athletes: Middle/distance - Rachel Bowers, Allie Scalf, Kelsey Kind, Kara Szaflarski; sprints - Emma Bowers, Hannah Bowers; jumps/hurdles - Keisha Phillips, Edwina Morris; throws - Jasmine Foster
Top newcomer: Kayla Kuziola, distance/hurdles
Outlook: With improved field events, the Lady Hilltoppers will once again be a top competitor in Northeast Tennessee.
Coach: Len Jeffers
Top returning athletes: Jumps - Jordan Osborne, Jonathon Morris; distance - Justin Little, Adam Ketron; sprints - Ricky Carter, Larry Martin; throws - Levi Becklhimer
Top newcomers: Chris Winkle, jumps; Andrew Price, distance; Lance White, distance; Austin Shelton, sprints/jumps
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Shawna Austin, Elizabeth, Shipley, Holly Everheart; hurdles - Jessica Edwards; distance - Mattea Moore
Top newcomers: Courtney Killebrew, throws; Katie smith, sprints; Jenna Venters, jumps; Chelsea France, jumps; Danielle Mitchell, distance; Sarah Taylor, distance; Chelsea Burkett, distance
Coach: Mike O'Neill
2006 highlights: Bo Dykes won Big 9 Conference 110-meter hurdles crown
Top returning athletes: Hurdles/jumps - Bo Dykes; distance - Mykal Miller, Jr.; sprints - Michael Lopez
Top newcomers: Cruz Russell, middle distance
Outlook: The Falcons are young but have potential. Look for them to be better as the season progresses.
Coach: Claudette Sivert
Top returning athletes: Hurdles/sprints - Brandy Barton, Kristen Brooks, Carrie Newton, Cynthia Lawson; distance - Joran Britton, Tiffany Castle, Rebecca Langston; jumps - Amanda Ondayog; throws - Taylor Dickerson, Tabitha Moore, Tara Moore, Shanque Price
Top newcomers: Angela Johnson, hurdles; Carson Necessary, distance; Kim Dishner, sprints, Summer Dalton, sprints
Outlook: The Lady Falcons' numbers are on the rise and they are looking to be improved this season.
Coach: Sherman Starnes
Top returning athletes: Jumps - Ken McGee; distance - Derek France, Brandon Hawkins; sprints - Chris Cook
Outlook: The Pioneers are working hard to move up to the middle of the pack.
Coach: Roger Hill
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Brandy Gillespie, Anna Smith, Alecia Robinson; middle/distance - Erika Penix, Erika Parker, Kristy Moore; throws - Christian Stephens
Top newcomers: Lauren Murr, throws; Tiffany Hughes, throws
Outlook: The Lady Pioneers have a lot of new blood on the team this season. Their goal is to gain experience and be competitive.
––––––SOUTHWEST VIRGINIAPOWELL VALLEYGirls
Coach: Tim Thomas
2006 highlights: Lonesome Pine District runner-up
Top returning athletes: Throws - Brittany Dickenson, Emily Scott; hurdles - Kaley Callahan; jumps - Tessa Burton; middle/distance - Morgan Bolling, Lauren Fowler
Top newcomers: Tasha Trent, jumps, middle distance; Kelsey Clasby, sprints; Katrice Jones, sprints
Outlook: The Lady Vikings are optimistic about winning the LPD crown this year.
Coach: Phil Robbins
2006 highlights: Lonesome Pine and Region D champions
Top returning athletes: Hurdles - Stephen Mumpower (seventh in state 110's), Cedric Mitchell, Terrell Turner; jumps - Mitchell, Turner; sprints - Delmas Lawson; middle distance - Andrew Meador
Top newcomers: David Fannon, middle/distance; Myron Pinkston, jumps; Dakota Cantrell, 400m/relays
Outlook: The Vikings enter the season with solid experience and talent.
Coach: Rick Mumpower
2006 highlights: Adam Kiser LPD 400m champ and runner-up in Region D
Top returning athletes: Sprints/middle distance - Kiser, Morgan Ireson, Devin Brickey
Top newcomers: Bud Allen, distance; Saul Perez, throws
Outlook: The Bulldogs continue to improve.
Coach: Chris Sutphin
2006 highlights: Won Cumberland District crown for the third year in a row
Top returning athletes: Distance - Collin Skeen, Landon Smith; sprints/jumps - Adam Williams, Josh Dooley, Robbie Hawkins (also middle distance); throws - Jeff Taylor
Top newcomers: Chance Marsee, distance; Kyle Perkins, sprints/middle distance; Jesse Denson, throws
Outlook: The Pioneers will be gunning for a fourth consecutive district championship.
Coach: Kelli Mooney
2006 highlights: All-region honors for Jessica Hansel, Tessa Garrett, Jessica Ayers; Garrett earned all-state honors.
Top returning athletes: Throws - Tiffany Gibson, Jennifer Brockman; jumps/hurlles/distance - Hansel
Top newcomers: Amber Davis, jumps/hurdles; Charla Crumley, distance; Amy Carmony, distance
Outlook: The Lady Pioneers once again are taking aim at the Cumberland crown.
Coach: Bill Houseright
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Daniel Smith; distance - John Marshall, Cody May; throws - Chris Frazier
Outlook: While short on numbers, the Titans have some newcomers who could add depth as the season progresses.
Coach: Jenny Houseright
2006 highlights: Cumberland District champions; Region D runners-up.
Top returning athletes: Sprints/middle distance - Katie Lane, Hilary Meade, Whitney McConnell, Alisha Parks; hurdles/distance - Robyn Dougherty
Outlook: With five Lady Titans who competed in the state meet on the roster, Twin Springs continues to work hard to repeat as the district champion.
Coach: Ritchie Deel
2006 highlights: Seven Rebels qualified for the Region D meet, with three advancing to state.
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Anthony Honaker, Adam Kiser (also, relays, jumps, throws), Evan McCowan (also, relays, jumps); throws - Travis Mott
Top newcomers: Toby Garrett, high jump; James Kiser, throws; Shaun Meade, relays; Ryan Milgrim, throws; Luke Rasnick, high jump; Adam Rose, throws; Joey Sykes, hurdles; Tyler Meade, distance
Outlook: The Rebels should excel in field events and sprints, and also should have a very competitive 4x100-meter relay team.
Coach: Karen Martin
2006 highlights: Lady Rebels qualified two athletes for the region and state meets
Top returning athletes: Sprints - Danielle Bond; throws - Sarah McCoy, Ashley Stevens
Top newcomers: Kelly Rasnick, sprints, 400m, throws; Autumn Bond, high jump, relays; Emma Spangler, distance; Amy Large, distance; Dana Deel, hurdles
Outlook: The Lady Rebels have a very strong freshman class that should add much-needed depth to the squad.
Coach: John Davis
2006 highlights: Lady Deacons finished second in Cumberland District.
Top returning athletes: High jump - Chelsea Arrington; hurdles/sprints - Lauren Dean, Courtney Evans
Outlook: With an increase in numbers, the Lady Deacons could again challenge for the Cumberland crown.