Unicoi County Middle School track team sets records at state meet
By Trey Williams
The Unicoi County Middle School track team concluded the 2021 season by setting three records at the state meet in Clarksville on Saturday.
A state title could very well have also been won if the relay had not been dropped in the 4 × 200 relay.
“We dropped the baton and still finished third,” said coach Jason Hensley.
The Blue Devils were eighth when they took over, and the final two runners – Branson Salts and Emmanuel Nsenjiyumana – managed to cut five spots in a dazzling spectacle that received an audible response from the large crowd at Austin Peay.
“They hit back and there were oohs and aahs when they did that,” Hensley said. “I felt like we could have won the thing. It was frustrating, but it was impressive. …
“We organize most of our meetings with the schools in the city just to get ready to go running at the section and state meetings. The only relay team to beat us before the national 4 × 200 and 4 × 100 competition was Robinson (Kingsport). They finished in the top four of the big school.
Salts and Nsenjiyumana teamed up with Garrett Sellars and Brendan Hyder to finish third in the 4 × 100 and 4 × 200. Dylan Gast also helped relay teams thrive early in the season when Hyder was injured.
Salts was fifth in the state in the hurdles.
“Branson had never done hurdles before and is just going out and finishing in the top five in the state,” Hensley said with a chuckle. “Sellars has been doing long jumps for me for two and a half years and he’s been improving continuously. He’s had a really good season.”
Sellars finished eighth in the state in the long jump although he doesn’t come close to a personal best.
Jose Lopez was eighth in the 400 meters. Hensley said Lopez and all of the aforementioned athletes have played football.
“We’re working really hard to get all these guys who play football to run on the track,” Hensley said. “And Jose has played football all year round. He was part of an 8-0 football team. After the football season was over, he went out and ran with us and qualified for the state. I am really proud of José. He ran for us in sixth and seventh years as well.
Unicoi County finished 11th out of 37 teams in the team standings. Alcoa was the first. Jefferson (Oak Ridge) and Tullahoma finished second and third, respectively.
Cedric Booker (throwing) and Ashton Austin (sprints, throws) have had productive careers for Unicoi.
“Cedric pitched for us for three years,” Hensley said. “He’s a good leader for us. He really helped the rest of our pitchers do well.
“Ashton is a very good athlete. He’s another football player.
Hensley said Connor Tipton also contributed to a successful season.
Unicoi has now advanced 18 boys in the state over the past four seasons.
“Our kids really enjoyed our season,” Hensley said. “We have had a lot of success this year. We’ve had a lot more team success than we’ve ever had.
Hensley said sprinter Brianna Butler shone for Lauren Trivette’s women’s team.
“BB showed up and worked every day. I think she just did it because Coach Trivette was coaching, ”Hensley said with a chuckle. “She worked really hard in training. I can’t say enough about BB’s efforts.
Janiela Soto also ran sprints.
“She’s a seventh grader who’s had a pretty good year,” Hensley said.
Freshman pitcher Morgan Sable caught Hensley’s attention.
“I’m really looking forward to see what she does next year,” he said. “I am proud of everyone for their hard work.”