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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Expectations high for SHS tracksters

Friday, April 2, 2004

Sikeston track coach Jerry Dement (far right) watches his team work.
SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldog track and field team lost some top-notch talent to graduation last year, but they return enough to keep head coach Jerry Dement's spirits high.

With the bulk of his team returning, including individual all-staters Felante Larry, Tyler Woodson and Clay Lincoln, Dement has his sights set on another district championship.

"We always have high expectations and we've set our goals up there," said Dement. "We want to be competitive locally, but we have our goals set on challenging for the conference, district and state title. The kids realize with hard work and coaching and sticking together then we've got a chance to be successful. We want to be competitive statewide as well."

The Bulldogs have won three straight Class 3, District 1 titles and finished fifth in the state last season, mostly on the shoulders of Michael Colon's state championship performance in the triple jump, who has taken his talents to Southeast Missouri State University.

Dement says this year's team won't be as deep in every event as in year's past, but he expects certain individuals to produce big on a consistent basis.

"It's a little bit different this year -- the last several years our depth and our ability to score in about every event has been our strength," said Dement. "Obviously we've had individual talent and kids that have done well at the state level. But this year it seems like we're lacking a little bit in depth and we may not be able to score in quite the number of events. But I think the ones that we're in, we'll be able to do pretty good in."

Larry placed fourth in the long jump last year. Lincoln took sixth in the 1600 meter run and Woodson took seventh in the 110 meter high hurdles.

Lincoln's time of 4:24 in the mile at the state meet last year ranks as one of the best in Missouri history for a freshman.

Quinton Lamb, one of the few seniors on the team, returns after qualifying for state in the 400 meter dash.

As usual, Dement is expecting big things out of his relay teams. Two-thirds of his state placing 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 meter relays return in Larry and Thomas Elery.

An event that hasn't been a strength in the past, the Bulldogs' 4 x 800 meter relay team has also shown some promise.

Dement will have to do some restructuring in the 4 x 400 relay, with Elery being the only returner.

"I think we can be pretty competitive in the relays," said Dement. "We've still got some pieces of that to put together. We've got some guys in Felante Larry and Thomas Elery that have run at the state meet since they were freshmen. They're back on both the speed relays. We like to build relays for strength. It involves a lot of kids and our athletes like to compete on those. Those should be a strength. I think we can be pretty competitive in all four relays."

After two track meets so far this season, Larry, Woodson, Lincoln and Elery have been the mainstays for the Bulldogs.

Larry burst out of the gates with a personal best leap of 23-feet in the long jump, which oftentimes is good enough to win state.

Lincoln and Woodson have rolled in their events in the early going as well. Woodson will also be competing in the 300 meter hurdles this season.

"We're looking right now to fill every event with somebody that can score," said Dement. "We've got some holes to fill up and we're not there yet. We're young in a lot of spots and we've some new people that we're trying out. The kids have had a good attitude and they've worked hard. Hopefully it will pay off for them."

In the throwing events, senior Andy Croxford and junior Joe Johnson anchor the shot put and discus. Taylor Old and Tyler Holt will also compete in the throwing events. Kirk Butler and Trey Stone will compete in the pole vault.

Juniors Apollo Patterson and Brandon Williams are the early candidates to fill the speed relay spots.

Senior Josh Bloyd will compete in the high jump and Woodson and Robbie Howard will also compete in the triple jump.

"We've got some really good strong individuals but we're trying to put a complete team together," said Dement. "It may us most of the season to get the right combination together."

Sikeston's boys will have their first big meet tomorrow at the Murphysboro Invitational.

On the girls side, seniors Rachael Vining and Paige Kaiser return as the top point-getters from last season.

"They're two of our senior keys," said Dement. "We're looking for big things out of Rachael. She's been a very solid contributor for three years. Paige Kaiser is a returning state qualifier. They're going to be really important to the team."

Kaiser competes in the pole vault and is getting some early work in the jumps. Vining runs the 100 meter hurdles, competes in a relay and the long and triple jumps. She missed qualifying for state in the long jump by four inches last year.

Others returning are Latavia Flye, Berneatress Hunt, Deneka Black, Jalisa Robinson and Ashley Johnson in the speed events.

Tracy Jackson will compete in the hurdles and 800 meters. Lauren Teachout will compete in the distance events. Freshman Quinn Kaiser has looked good in the early going in the triple and high jumps.

Whitney Wallace anchors the throwing events.

"We're a really young girls team," said Dement. "We don't have quite as many numbers as we've had in the past, but the girls have worked hard. We've got some good returners back. We're a little short in some events, but I think we've got some that we can be strong in. We've got some young faces on the girls team that we need to make competitive for us."

The Lady Bulldogs placed 10th in the district meet last year. Dement is hoping his girls can build on last year's momentum with an extremely young team.

"We want to improve every week," said Dement. "I think last year we were respectable in every meet. We finished usually in the top four or five out of all the teams in the invitationals and that's always a big goal for us. We're a little bit down in numbers for the girls. But what we lack in quantity, I think we have in good quality. We've got more question marks in the girls than the boys, but I think we'll put some things together here pretty soon."

Sikeston's girls will compete in the East Prairie Invitational today at 4 p.m.