By Jeff Keeling
When she is after some homespun philosophy, the lovely and talented Angela sometimes turns to one of her favorite movies – “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Early in the movie, the character Reese Bobby tells a young Ricky, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
The problem is, Reese Bobby is a total loser himself, an absent dad whose words cement themselves in Ricky’s consciousness in ways that lead to success on the race track but not so much off of it. Fortunately, Ricky learns after much heartache that life is about much more than always finishing first.
Coming up just short of victory is a painful, disappointing experience. Last week, it was the result for more than a handful of local high school athletes at the annual state championships in Murfreesboro. My hope is that these young men and women – and the numerous others who placed at state, all of them after stellar seasons – are holding their heads high this week, as they most certainly ought to be.
The remainder of this column is devoted to a salute to them, and recognition of the hard work and talent that allowed them to be recognized as among the state’s best athletes.
In boys’ tennis, Science Hill High School’s Andrew Morton, a junior, won his quarterfinal and semifinal matches in straight sets before falling in the final to place second.
In boys’ soccer, Science Hill’s squad shut out East Hamilton 1-0 in the quarterfinals, and blanked Hardin Valley 2-0 in the semifinals. The team’s fourth-ever appearance in the championship ended in disappointment, with a 3-2 loss to Germantown Houston made more bitter by the fact that two of Houston’s goals came on penalty kicks.
In track and field, Science Hill’s Halle Hausman, a sophomore, finished less than 1.4 seconds behind winner Hailey Hendry of Brentwood in the 1600 meters. University High junior Jarod Smith was runner up in the boys’ pole vault, a feat mirrored by Savannah Hirst of Science Hill on the girls’ side.
Finally, the Daniel Boone High School 4×800 meter relay team finished second to Brentwood. Overall, Boone’s boys had a third-place team finish.
In addition to the second-place finishes, numerous other track and field athletes acquitted themselves well in Murfreesboro.
David Crockett High School sophomore Addisyn Rowe placed third in the girls’ high jump, while Science Hill’s 4×800 boys’ relay team was third, just behind Boone.
Fourth-place finishers included Boone senior Steven Carr in the 200 meters and the Science Hill girls’ 4×800 relay team.
In fifth place were University High’s Salter Blowers, a junior, in the boys’ pole vault, Science Hill senior Khiry Halim in the boys’ triple jump, and Daniel Boone’s boys’ 4×400 relay team.
Sixth-place honors went to Daniel Boone sophomore Ben Varghese in the 3200 meters and Boone senior Christian Stumpf in the high jump.
David Crockett freshman Breanna Roy was seventh in the girls’ 1600 meters, as was Science Hill junior Lydia Lee in the girls’ 3200 meters. University High senior Wade Wilson placed seventh in the 300-meter hurdles.
Eighth-place finishes were accomplished by Science Hill’s Hirst in the 300-meter hurdles and Daniel Boone junior Josh Routh in the boys’ 1600 meters.
Oh, and by the way, Daniel Boone senior Adam Barnard won state championships in both the 3200 and 1600 meters. His coach, Len Jeffers, told me on Monday that Barnard has been invited to run in the boys’ high school mile this Friday at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.
In Eugene, Barnard will go up against the country’s best. He’ll run to win, as he did in the Nike national cross country championships in December, when he pushed eventual champion Tanner Anderson to the limit before finishing fifth. Whatever the result, Barnard will walk away satisfied he did his best.
Every team and every individual mentioned in this column competed to win in Murfreesboro. The number who came up just short is rather remarkable. More remarkable, though, is the excellence all of them displayed in reaching the competitive heights they attained this year.
I applaud all of them, and every local high school athlete whose determination and commitment saw him or her through another season.