The 2019 Unicoi County High School Lady Devil track team includes, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Cameron Higgins, assistant coach Samuel Bratton, head coach Thad Higgins and assistant coach Bettina Chirica; middle row, Mirand Avila, Kayla Hicks, Halie Hawkins, Iliana Martinez-Lopez, Natalia Mendoza; front row, Cheyenne Wilson, Clarita Ozuna, Rachel Altemose and Cynthia Mendoza. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The 2019 Unicoi County High School Blue Devil track team includes, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Cameron Higgins, assistant coach Samuel Bratton, head coach Thad Higgins and assistant coach Bettina Chirica; middle row, Nathan Lincoln, Adam Lewis and Phoenix Holt; front row, Wyatt Miller, John Campbell, Danny Lowery and Kenneth Perciful. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School track and field program has had another successful season, according to first-year head coach Thad Higgins.

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils have competed at the following meets: at Science Hill on March 18; at Volunteer on March 26; at North Buncombe on March 27; at Science Hill on April 2; at Science Hill for the Tri-Cities Classic on April 6; at the DB Texas Roadhouse Relays on April 13; and the sectional pentathlon on April 22 (only Lady Devils Halie Hawkins and Kayla Hicks competed at this meet).

“It’s incredible that we have had the amount of success that we’ve had this season,” Higgins recently told The Erwin Record. “We compete against schools that are much larger than ours, with track teams that have many more people than we do, and yet our athletes continue to place high in our meets.”

Those results include:

• John Campbell – first and second place in the 800-meter;

• Wyatt Miller – second place in the 800-meter;

• Halie Hawkins – first place in the pole vault and shot put; second place in the pole vault, shot put and discus; and third place in the pole vault;

• Natalia Mendoza – second and third place in discus;

• Kayla Hicks – first place in the 400-meter; and third place in discus;

• Cheyenne Wilson – first place in 800-meter and second place in 1600-meter;

• Rachel Altemose – second place in long jump.

“We have a much smaller guys team this year, but that hasn’t stopped them from competing at a high level,” Higgins said. “Wyatt Miller ran distance last year and cross country this past fall, but he’s stepped up and begun to pole vault. I’m very excited to see what he can do in that event over the next couple years. Likewise, we have some new faces that have stepped up and gotten out of their comfort zone. Nathan Lincoln has run wherever we’ve asked him to and has been dancing back and forth between sprinting events and mid-distance. Phoenix Holt is another one that we’ve had try almost every event. John Campbell is still running really well in the 800-meter and has even had some top finishes this season.”

The Lady Devils have also had success this season, according to their head coach.

“Our competition record really attests to the fact that our girls have been successful this season,” Higgins said. “We’ve had top finishers on the girls’ side from almost every meet this season. We’ve also already had three girls qualify for the sectional.”

Having two athletes compete in the girls’ pentathlon on April 22 was a highlight of the season.

“The girls’ pentathlon was a really fun event to get to go to this year,” Higgins said. “We don’t always have athletes who are diversified enough to compete in the event. It says a lot about the caliber of athletes we have competing this year that we took not one, but two girls – Halie and Kayla – to the sectional pentathlon.”

Throwers for both the Blue Devils and Lady Devils have had success this season, as well.

“Our throwers have also been working incredibly hard this season,” Higgins said. “They spend a lot of time separated from the rest of the team because of their event, but in spite of this, they’ve done a great job of coaching and supporting each other. Natalia Mendoza is our senior thrower and she’s done a great job of being a leader and setting a standard for a high work ethic. Kenny Perciful has even already qualified for the sectional meet.”

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The teams also competed in the conference meet held at Dobyns-Bennett on Friday, April 26. They were scheduled to compete at Science Hill on Tuesday, April 30, and at the invitation-only DB Ballad Health/Tri-Cities Sports meet on Friday, May 3.

“Our athletes have been working really hard this season and I don’t expect that to stop,” Higgins said. “As we’re nearing the end of the season I believe that we’ll see even more athletes qualify for the sectional meet.

“Unfortunately, athletes don’t get to progress to the postseason if they don’t meet certain qualifying standards for each event. If they meet these standards then they can progress to the sectional meet. I’d like to take as many as possible to the sectional meet so that our athletes have a chance to qualify for the state championships.”