Belgreen track hurdles challenges

By Staff
Kim West, Franklin County Times
BELGREEN – Imagine taking a team without a practice field and only four varsity members to compete for a state championship against 18 other schools.
Despite competing in only nine out of the 17 events, the Belgreen varsity girls track team placed third at the Class 1A state championship meet held May 3-4 in Troy.
"We've competed at state the past four years, but this was the first time we've placed high," Belgreen track coach Frank Billingham said. "Our program is hampered because we don't have a track to practice on, so we have to go to either Russellville or Red Bay when we do practice.`
"We do the best we can with what we have, but most of the time we just ask the girls to practice on their own, and several of the girls run cross-country in the fall, which helps them get ready for track."
Eighth grader Katelin Barber won Belgreen's only individual title when she beat Hazelwood's Jasmine Patton by 0.35 seconds to win the state championship in the 100-meter dash. Barber, who also plays basketball and softball, and runs cross-country, ran 13.01 at the sectional meet, and she was one-hundredth of a second behind Patton in the state preliminary meet.
"I just like to run, and there was more competition at state to make me run faster," said Barber, who also placed second in the 200-meter dash. "I wasn't nervous until I got to the finals, and I was really nervous then."
The 100-meter dash is slightly longer than the length of a football field, but a runner is expected to sprint the distance, Billingham said, who also has three daughters on the team.
"The state record is 12.30. Katelin ran it in 12.62," he said.
Mary Billingham finished third in the state javelin meet, and she is the only senior on a team that had only one junior and two sophomores.
"I throw the javelin, and softball keeps me in shape for that. It's something you have to work at, and if you enjoy it, you'll get better," she said. "Most sports are team sports, and this is something you can go out and do for yourself.
"I've competed in six events at different times, and I think all the events are really hard. But I think two of the hardest would be the dash and the 3200-meter run because in the dash you have to really sprint, and in the 3200 you have to be able to run two miles."
Lydia DeVaney finished second behind Amber Jones of Hazelwood in the 3200-meter state finals in 13:45.54, and she placed third in the 1600-meter finals behind Jones and Vina's Emily Davidson with a time of 6:03.18.
DeVaney attributed her success to having a height advantage over other runners.
"I already loved to run, and because I'm tall I have an advantage in running," DeVaney said. "I stopped running after cross-country this year and took a long break, and I'm not going to do that next year."
Even though twins Martha and Deborah Billingham are only sophomores, they both run on the relay teams.
The Billinghams placed sixth in the state meet for the 4 x 400 relay, which they ran with DeVaney and Lauren Oliver, and fourth in the 4 x 800 race along with older sister Mary and Katy Britton, who also placed fifth in the javelin.
"The relay is where four people run in an event," Martha Billingham said. "Track is an individual sport so everyone has to learn their part, but in relays it's individual and team because everybody has to work together to have four people accomplish one goal."
The 4 x 400 team failed to place in the top three because of a problem with the baton pass before the final lap.
"In that race, we're supposed to be full-out sprinting when you hand off the baton," said Deborah Billingham. "If you drop it, it knocks a lot of points off your score because of the time lost."
faster than its sectional and state preliminary times.
"We have 'go' signals, and the girl in our fourth leg heard the go signal for another runner and she started on that signal," Coach Billingham said.
"When she reached the end of the hand-off area, she had to literally stop and wait for the runner so she wasn't at full speed when she got the baton, and that's where we lost our time.
"One of the things relay teams look at is their times, and how they improve them during the year," said Coach Billingham.
"And our times improved after every meet."
Belgreen placed second at the county meet and finished second behind Hazelwood at the sectional meet. Before Cedar Bluff won this year's championship trophy, Hazelwood had won the state title 12 of the past 13 years, including six in Class 1A and seven in Class 2A.
"Our numbers were up this year, and we entered more events, which means more points," Billingham said. "
Winning breeds interest, and we've had success. I've asked each of these girls to try to recruit at least one other person to run because one of the reasons we can't score any more points than we scored at state is the limited number of people we take.
"Lydia is an eighth grader, and she was fifth in the state in cross-country. I think she has a good future in both because she's still learning how to pace herself in the meet. We're looking forward to not only Katelin bringing back some medals, but also Lydia and some of the other girls on the team as they learn how to run these races."
Brooke Davis competed in shot put and won a third-place medal, and Laken Hacker finished eighth in the 100-meter hurdles.
"As a track coach, I have more fun than with any other sport because girls can have different talents and be successful in different areas, and we try to put them in the area they're strongest in," Coach Billingham said.
"This year we had a girl try high jump for the first time, and she came in second in the county. It's fun working with the girls, and it's a really relaxed atmosphere.
"They all have a good attitude, and we pick at each other. It's one of those sports you just have a good time with each other all the time. When you see them succeed, even though it's not you succeeding, it's a good feeling to know you have at least been a part of something that's been successful."
Class 1A State Track Meet Results
100 M dash
1st place – Katelin Barber
200 M dash
2nd place – Katelin Barber
100 M hurdles
8th place – Laken Hacker
1600 M run
3rd place – Lydia DeVaney
3200 M run
2nd place – Lydia DeVaney
4 X 400 M (1600 M) relay
6th place – Deborah Billingham, Martha Billingham, Lauren Oliver, Lydia DeVaney
4 x 800 M (3200 M) relay
4th place – Deborah Billingham, Katy Britton, Mary Billingham, Roselyn Hargett
Javelin
3rd place – Mary Billingham
5th place – Katy Briton
Shot Put
3rd place – Brooke Davis

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