Bruz Crowson/The Item
Sumter's Tiffany McMillian, right, clears a hurdle during her leg of the 4x100 meter shuttle hurdle in the Sumter Optimist Relays Saturday at Sumter Memorial Stadium. Sumter finished third in the hurdle event.
By DENNIS BRUNSON
Item Sports Editor
Carl Baker said he felt good about both his boys and girls Sumter High School track and field teams entering the season. Their performances in the 31st running of the Sumter Optimist Relays at Sumter Memorial Stadium Saturday offered the head coach confirmation.
The Sumter girls tied with Summerville for the most top three finishes in the relay-style format used for all events, and the SHS boys finished with a total of seven top threes.
"I think we're going to be very competitive this year," Baker said. "As I said earlier, this is the most comfortable I think I've ever felt going into a season. To have this kind of performance with some of the powerhouse teams in here was also good for us."
The girls portion of the meet included such 4A standouts as Summerville, Northwestern and Dutch Fork, all of which finished in the top 10 of last year's state meet. Some of the top boys teams included Stratford, Northwestern, Richland Northeast, Dutch Fork and Lower Richland.
The Lady Gamecocks won three events — the long jump, the 800-meter sprint medley and the junior varsity 4x100 relay. Andrea Jackson, last year's 4A triple jump champion, combined with Frances Fields to win the long jump at 34 feet, 1 inch. Jackson was also on the third-place 4x100 shuttle hurdle tema with Erica Butler, Latosha Woods and Tiffany McMillian, paired with Woods to finish third in the high jump and with McMillian to finish second in the triple jump.
"Andrea Jackson just had an outstanding performance for us today," Baker said.
The 800 sprint medley team of Tasia Holmes, Fields, Jasmine Alston and Tyeshia McDuffie won in 1 minute, 53 seconds. The winning JV 4x100 teams of Tia Woods, Brittany Ingram, Holmes and McDuffie won in 53.13 seconds.
The varsity 4x100 team of Alston, Kendra Yates, Monigue Woods and Fields finished second, while the 4x800 team of Candace Sapp, Kathleen Coleman, Lakimbra Porcher and Shquanna Brown finished third.
The Sumter boys also had three first-place finishes — the long jump, high jump and 4x100. Brian Leneau and Marquis Mack combined to win the long jump at 40-6, while Jacques Watson and Dontae Middleton won the high jump at 11-10. The 4x100 team won in a time of 43.20. The team included Kendrick Pressley, D.J Brunson and first-time senior track performers Kelton Tindal and Willie Davis.
"It was good to see the new kids like Kelton and Willie do well today," Baker said. "You know they're good athletes, but you don't know how well they'll run for you until they get out here. They showed today they were pretty good runners."
Mack and Brunson combined to finish second in the triple jump, while the 4x800 team of Jacques Blanding, Stevie Brunson, Antoinne Gibson and Cayce Wells also finished second. Steve Brunson, Gibson, Kendell Session and Dustin Hillard formed the third-place distance medley team. Sumter's JV 4x100 team of Brian Wilson, Teyan Singleton, Dominic Simon and Evans Sanders also finished third.
Summerville's Shantell Smith and Kayla Blake were co-recipients of the Eddie Porter most valuable female performer award. The Keith Schultz most valuable male performer award went to Northwestern's Tre Blake.
The Sam Lenoir coaches award went to Northwestern head coach Calvin Hudgins, whose boys team had the most overall top three finishes.