Neal track looks to top last year's high state finish
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
The good news for the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles track team this season is they have several key cogs back from the squad that finished seventh in last year's Class 3A state meet. The tough thing for W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers has been trying get all his personnel together at the same time.
"Our sprints should be the strength of our team. We return three of the four members (sophomore Mario Daniel and seniors Alphonso Gross and Marcus Folmar) from last year's 400 meter relay team that won the state championship," Smothers said. "For various reasons, we haven't had the three of them together in practice one time yet. We need for them to get some work in together. Relay events involve a lot of timing work when it comes to the exchanges."
While Smothers hopes to have Daniel, Gross and Folmar in the short sprints, he will turn to sophomore DeWayne Floyd and freshman Jonathan Alexander for the longer sprints such as the 400 meter dash.
"Right now they are both pretty close. Jonathan was a little faster in the 400 meter dash race in our first meet at Monroe County," Smothers said.
In the middle distance, sophomores Allen Dunn, Ronald Travis and Joe Bailey will concentrate on the 800 meters. Meanwhile Dunn and junior Shon Biddle will get a good workout in the long distance races of the 1600 and 3200 meters.
"Ray and Shon both showed some good improvement from our first to second meets," Smothers said.
The W.S. Neal coach is looking for a second hurlder to go with sophomore Jarrod McCreary.
In addition to sprints, the throwing events should be one of W.S. Neal's top areas.
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Senior Chris Johnson was a state qualifier last year in the shot put, while senior Kendreal Williams finished second in the state last year in the discus.
Sophomore Joe Bailey and junior Brandon Gantt will also be used in the throwing events.
"Chris and Kendreal give us a good foundation in the throwing. We're hoping to get both of them back to state again this year," Smothers said.
Gross won last year's Class 3A state long jump title.
"Alphonso is also playing tennis spring so he has had to bounce back and forth. He has been doing some workouts on his own," Smothers said.
Alexander will also perform in the long jump, while sophomore Cecil Thomas will perform in the triple jump.
"We've got 26 boys out this spring and I'm glad to see that kind of interest. The program finished seventh at last year's state meet and we're hoping we can do that well again this year. However, we're in a tough sectional with teams like T.R. Miller and Sumter County," Smothers said.
W.S. Neal Blue Eagles
Apr. 1 Monroe County Away 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 13 Monroe County Away 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 15 T.R. Miller Away 3:30 pm.
Apr. 22 Sectional at T.R. Miller
Apr. 30-May 1 State Meet at Troy State