Meridian Star

Sports

May 9, 2014

Meridian track and field seeking state title

MERIDIAN — Kiana Grant has one more chance to take home a state championship ring in track and field.

But the Meridian High School senior has more than herself on mind when it comes to taking home a ring. The Lady Wildcats are trying to give head coach Barbara Brown, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, a state championship before she retires after this season.

“That’s really been one of our main things that’s making us work hard for state,” Grant said, who competes in long jump, triple jump and 400 meter dash. “It’s her last year, and we want her to know what it feels like to win a state championship.”

The boys and girls track teams will both be vying for a state title at the MHSAA Class 6A meet Saturday at Pearl High School. Last weekend, the girls won the South State title, while the boys finished second in South State, both qualifying for state.

“Everybody’s contributed — all the coaches, all the athletes — everyone’s bought in,” MHS boys track coach Reggie Walker said. “We started with the intent of winning a state championship, and there’s been a great group effort. Everyone’s put in 100 (percent).”

The boys have won state most recently in 2011, Walker said, while the girls have been close “so many times.” Walker said Brown decided she would retire before being diagnosed, but after learning of her cancer, the team wanted to go all the way that much more.

“You would never know (she has cancer) just by watching her,” he said. “She’s energetic, vibrant and pretty much the heart of this team. Her being able to overcome adversity is motivation for the kids. She’s out here, and she’s sick, so what’s you’re excuse? You can’t have an excuse.”

Brown wasn’t at the team’s practice Thursday, but Grant said watching her coach be there for her team throughout the season has been a blessing.

“She’s just a strong woman,” Grant said.

The boys’ squad also has a bit of motivation of its own, senior Eddie Cole said. Cole, who competes in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter hurdles and 4X200-meter relays, said former teammate Keyaurdra “Yoshi” Davis offers inspiration for the entire Wildcats team. Davis was a track athlete whose career was cut short after he was paralyzed from the waste down after being struck by a stray bullet in the summer of 2012 in Highland Park.

“I know he would want to be out here running, but he can’t be,” Cole said. “He really does inspire us. We could be cramped up and tired, and if anyone yells the name, “Yoshi,” it’s like we get a boost of energy. Why not go hard for him?”

While the boys finished runner-up in South State, Walker said he’s still pleased with how they’ve done during the season up to this point.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” he said. “Initially, I thought we’d reach this stage next year, but we had a lot of ninth graders that were key contributors to our success. When we got to South State, that inexperience and youth showed, and the upperclassmen just had the upper hand.”

But with the chance to win a state title still at play, Cole said the boys are as focused as ever.

“We really want it as badly as we can breathe,” he said. “We’re out here every day in the sun and rain and hot and cold. We just go hard so we can get a state championship.”

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