Local track teams face divisional meets today

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

With a good cast of competitors in the field and the distance events, first-year St. Aloysius track and field coach Richard Hodges feels his Flashes can compete for the Division 7-1A team title. The divisional meet begins today at St. Andrew’s with field events and concludes on Wednesday with the running finals.

The Division 4-6A meet, which will feature Vicksburg High and Warren Central along with Greenville-Weston, will begin today at Clinton High School.

Hodges, who coaches the Flashes’ basketball teams, has tried to build depth in all events in order to compete with teams built on speed like Thomastown and McAdams.

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The top four finishers in each event at the division meets advance to next week’s region meet.

“We know those teams will bring the speed,” Hodges said. “What we’ve tried to do is tell our kids that every place counts. We’ve tried to prepare our athletes so that they can pick up points. Those second, third, fourth and fifth places can add up points. The kids have done a good job of buying into it.”

Instead of participating in just a few big regular season meets, and then in smaller events during the week, Hodges has primed his teams at bigger meets.

“We did the Gator Relays, went to Mississippi State’s meet, the Blue Cross Meet, one at Jackson Prep and the meet at Mississippi College last week,” Hodges said.

It was at Mississippi College where St. Al placed third in both the boys and girls Division II standings. The St. Al boys totaled 84 points and the girls had 78.

“We were third out of six teams and the two ahead of us were Newton and Jefferson County,” Hodges said. “Jefferson County had some nationally ranked speed in the relays. But we did well in the field, and did well in every race from the 400 meters up. Our girls won the 3,200-meter relay.”

The Lady Flashes also got a first-place finish from defending Class 1A champ Maggie Waites, an eighth-grader, in the pole vault.

“Maggie is the No. 1 girls’ pole vaulter in Mississippi,” Hodges said. “She cleared 10 feet, 6 inches at MC. That clearance also gets her ranked nationally, which is something pretty cool to have on our team.”

While several Flashes are going in with medal chances, Hodges is prouder of the overall interest in the program.

“We’ve got 35 kids now involved in our program,” Hodges said. “I’m really excited about that. A lot of my basketball players are running track, like Ford Biedenharn, who is doing our long jumps. And it’s filtered down into the middle school. What it means for us this week, is that we will have two guys and two girls in both the shot and the discus who can score. I’m trying to develop a corps in the hurdles. Then we’ll have two in every event.”