The Lee Academy boys won the Class 3A MSAIS state track and field championship this past weekend.
It was the first time in 12 years the Colts won any state championships. The boys were also the track and field champions in 2009.
The field events were at Canton Academy Friday and the track events were at Jackson Prep Saturday. The Colts finished first out of 18 teams and the Fillies finished fifth out of 17 teams.
“This goes back to working hard,” said Lee coach Rick Johnston. “We’ve had guys that have been with us and, girls, too, since seventh grade. We’ve come close before on the boys side. We were in kind of a dog fight late in the track meet with six events left to go. We had one of our seniors Gaines Barksdale really step up and give us a boost in the 800-run and really helped us solidify the victory. We had a seventh grader (Jacori Nolan) running the two-mile. We had both young and old.
“We had great leadership out of our seniors. Nickos Nolan had a big day. Graydon Gullick, baseball player, but also ran track for us – he and Russell Cook came over with James Chicorelli, Aidan Byrd and really did a great job. Everything just kind of came together and we ran some good times with the relays and our individual races. It’s the individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. Our goal was to go down there and win a state championship. Our guys got it done.”
Johnston said the Colts knew the points were close down the stretch.
“We had a little team meeting there with about six events left to go,” he said. “The coaching staff explained to them how special this would be. You’re so close and you don’t want it to slip away now. They just came together and got it done.”
Johnston felt his team excelled in all different areas.
“I think we were well-balanced across the board,” he said. “We qualified somebody in every event except for the triple jump. I think we had a balanced attack. We came out of the field leading. We never gave up the lead on Saturday. It did get close within five points, but we were able to stretch it out. It was nice to go in the mile relay and know you couldn’t be beat.”
Not only did Lee Academy win its first state championship since 2009, there were several other achievements throughout the athletic department. Gullick, who is a senior, is in the MSAIS baseball All-Star Game. That will be the first time since 2014 that Lee is represented.
The achievements happened in a year where the COVID pandemic made things more difficult.
“We started the year off having to just revamp everything, how we trained, having us put people in small groups, how to hydrate the people, the wearing of masks,” Johnston said. “It was all new territory to us and our kids accepted it and worked hard. Probably the thing that I am most proud of as being athletic director and a coach here is for the first time in a long time, and maybe ever, all of our athletic programs made the state playoffs.”
Johnston does not know what to expect next season when it comes to dealing with COVID.
“Who knows?” he said. “What’s normal these days? That’s the question you could ask yourself. I mean what is normal? When you go to the track meet this meet, you’ve got people that are wearing masks, that aren’t wearing masks.”
Johnston did say things are getting close to normal and athletes are looking forward to building on their achievements for next year.
“We’re going to press on,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work hard and we’re going to continue to hopefully put a good product out there on the athletic fields and courts. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished and, hopefully, it will be even better next year.”
1. Bryan Ray 13-06.00
2. James Chicorelli 10-00.00
3. Graydon Gullick 19-08.00
6. Andrew Williamson 41-05.00
1. Andrew Williamson 146-03
4. James Chicorelli 11.43
1. Nickos Nolan 22.71
2. Nickos Nolan 53.19
8. Bryan Ray 58.96
4. Gaines Barksdale 2:17.64
5. Gaines Barksdale 5:13.39
6. Jacori Nolan 12:29.63
2. Bryan Ray 17.73
1. Nickos Nolan 40.63
2. Nickos Nolan, Graydon Gullick, Aidan Byrd, James Chicorelli, Bryan Ray, Montavian Artis 45
1. Nickos Nolan, Graydon Gullick, Aidan Byrd, James Chicorelli, Bryan Ray, Montavian Artis 1:33.22
6. Gaines Barksdale, Russell Cook, William Walker, Michael Basha, Bram Harris, Jacori Nolan 9:37.28
4. William Walker J5-10.00
1. Emily Moser 13.09
7. Nyriah Artis 30.69
6. Elizabeth Basha 2:44.98
1. Jett Harrell 49.14
2. Emily Moser, Brielle Johnson, Faith Carter Bailey, Nyriah Artis, Jett Harrell 54.06
6. Emily Moser, Brielle Johnson, Faith Carter Bailey, Nyriah Artis, Jett Harrell, Dre-terria Maiden 1:56.09
7. Elizabeth Basha, Sarah Basha, Dre’terria Maiden, Tatum Young, Gladys Daniel, Tameria Edwards 12:13.98
2. Emily Moser 15-11.50
4. Emily Moser 30-10.75
8. Emma Pennington 76-02