Saturday, May 14, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Senior leads way to Wolves’ first-ever state championship

Leader sports editor

In the first year that Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School had a full slate of high school classes, it brought home a state championship. The Wolves, led by senior Jordan McNair’s high-point effort, won the Class 1A boys’ track title last Monday in Harrison. Lighthouse scored 109 points to edge out defending champion Caddo Hills by seven points. Trinity Christian School of Texarkana took third place.

A year ago with no seniors, the Wolves finished second to Caddo Hills, and JLC coach Kelvin Parker was confident his team could get it done this season.

“I already knew it,” said Parker. “I had predicted it. I told them, all we have to do is get certain kids in certain races, and we could get enough points. There were some events we knew we would win going in, and we just had to get a little help in some other areas.”

McNair once again broke his own Class 1A state record in the 100-meter dash and became the first 1A runner in state history to break the 11-second barrier with a 10.99. His sophomore teammate Robert Whitfield was second at 11.34, and Lighthouse junior Chris Mims made it a Wolf sweep with an 11.96.

“Those 24 points in one event was big,” Parker said.

McNair and Whitfield also finished one and two in the 200-meter dash. McNair ran a 23.05 while Whitfield was close behind at 23.78.

McNair also finished second with personal best jumps in the long and triple jumps, despite having the seventh best seed distances in both events. He had never gone 40 feet before in the triple jump, but blew by that with a 41-6 to come up just five inches short of winner M.J. Griffin of Wonderview. He beat his best long jump by nine inches when he leaped 19-5.50, just 1/4 inch short of Griffin’s winning jump.

He also anchored the Wolves’ dominant 4x100-meter relay team. Mims, Whitfield, Josiah Tudryn and McNair finished in 45.02, almost three full seconds ahead of second-place Acorn’s 47.98.

The meet was not without some drama. Parker knew his team was ahead going into the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, but he didn’t know by how much. Things got even more nerve-wracking when the Lighthouse team, which had the third-fastest seed time, was disqualified for failing to make a baton exchange within the required distance.

“Before that last race I had asked the official for a point count and he wouldn’t give it to me,” Parker said. “I felt like if we could just get any points at all we would win, but then we didn’t, so I was a little nervous before they announced the final points.”

Whitfield picked up six points with a third-place finish in the 110-meter high hurdles while Darin Burnett added a point by finishing eighth.

Burnett took fifth in the 300-meter hurdles while teammate Tre Crutchfield made it a seven-point event for the Wolves by finishing sixth.

The Wolves’ team of Braylon Jones, Hezekiah Coote, Darin Reed and Devin Hildreth took fourth in the 4x800 for five big points.

Billy Whitehead gave the Wolves some needed points in the high jump by taking third place for six points. Joshua McNair earned the team 12 points by placing second in the discus and fifth in the shot put.

Abundant Life’s Daniel Carrell earned the state championship in the 1,600-meter race, and took second in the 800. His performance might have helped the Wolves.

“We don’t have any distance runners,” Parker said. “Last year Caddo Hills and Trinity dominated those events. So for him to get up there like that, it knocked them back a little and cost them some points. I think that helped us.”