Starting Fast: Port Gibson seventh-graders McCauley, Trevillion celebrate state track titles

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, May 21, 2023

Some high school track and field athletes spend years chasing a state championship. Amari Trevillion and DaBrielle McCauley got theirs before they even made it to high school.

The Port Gibson seventh-graders both won gold medals at the MHSAA Class 3A girls’ state meet on May 10. Trevillion won the 400 meters, and McCauley the 800. It’s a remarkable accomplishment at any age, but especially for two runners just beginning their varsity careers.

“When you’re young, you’re not afraid. The way they practice, it shows on the track,” Port Gibson High School track coach Gail Sherman said. “I don’t think they have really recognized that they are the first in Mississippi to run those times. Later on they will realize, because everybody’s going to be coming after them. We’re going to push them to make sure they don’t get beat.”

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McCauley seemed an unlikely championship contender when the track and field postseason began. She ran the 800 meters in 2 minutes and 57 seconds at the Division 7-3A meet, holding off Tylertown’s Rehanna Cook by one second for fourth place and the final spot in the regional meet the following week.

From there, however, she took off like a rocket. Her time dropped to 2:34 at the Region 4-3A meet, and 2:29 at the Class 3A South State meet. She won both races.

“At the beginning of the year I didn’t think I would make it, but in the middle, with my coaches. I knew that I would do it,” McCauley said. “The more that I practiced, the more that my times went up. Then when I looked at those times it was like, ‘I’m making it.’”

McCauley kept up her speed at the state meet, but getting gold was not easy. She wound up in a dead heat with Saint Patrick’s Bella Jordan coming toward the finish line.

“I was a lot scared. She was right behind me. I tried to sprint my best and use the rest of my energy to get the rest of the 200 out of the way,” McCauley said. “I didn’t even think about (winning). I was just running.”

McCauley had beaten Jordan by .15 seconds at the regional meet, and the state meet was even closer. The Port Gibson runner won by just .02 seconds.

“It was fingernail close. It was a photo finish. I held my breath and when I saw her name go up I hollered, ‘Yes!’ and as she said, ‘Thank you Jesus,’” Sherman said with a laugh.

While McCauley surged to the state championship with a drastic postseason improvement, Trevillion became a favorite to win the 400 meters through steady performance. She regularly posted times of about one minute all season, and broke that barrier with a time of 59.80 seconds at the South State meet.

Trevillion said that time, which was more than a second better than anyone in Class 3A had run heading into the state meet, drew plenty of attention among her fellow runners.

“When we were coming out of the little thing they asked me what my time was and I told them a 59. They were like, ‘That’s amazing,’” Trevillion said.

Like her teammate, Trevillion had to fend off plenty of competition to win her gold medal. The top three finishers were within .85 seconds — about a half-step on the track — as they came across the line.

Trevillion led them, with a winning time of 1:00.04. Tiara Leverson of Holly Springs was second in 1:00.37 and Ellie Pellizzer of Alcorn Central came in third at 1:00.89

“I just tried to not run too fast in the first 100, and then I sped up when I got to the last curve. When I got in the curve I passed all the girls,” Trevillion said.

Sherman said both of her runners were aided in the long term by a tough decision.

McCauley qualified for the South State meet in the 1,600 meters but elected not to run it. Trevillion also ran the 800 meters and 4×200 meter relay during the regular season, but sat out those events in the postseason.

Sherman said Port Gibson’s coaches pulled McCauley and Trevillion out of the events they seemed like marginal contenders in, in order to focus on those they had a strong chance to win.

“We felt like, as coaches, looking at the girls from the other side and on our side, that we wanted them to get success early. To know how it feels to be a winner,” Sherman said. “We pulled them out of certain events. To be a winner is something different than just competing.”

They both wound up as winners, and likely will be for a long time — even if defending their titles will not be easy. Trevillion was the youngest Class 3A finalist in the 400 meters, but there were no seniors and only two juniors among the eight that reached the state meet. The 800 meter final only had one junior and no seniors.

Staying at the top of those strong, young fields will require as much mental work as physical, McCauley said.

“It’s hard, and at the same time it’s a mind game because you have to keep your mind in shape as well as your body,” she said. “For me, I keep my mind in shape with the Lord. I just ask and pray — and I train, too.”
Sherman thinks her runners have what it takes to get to the top of the podium again — and again, and again, and again, and again.

“I am extremely proud of them. They worked extremely hard throughout the year,” Sherman said. “They came to practice every day and did what the coach asked them to do. They pushed each other in practice, and that’s what I like. It’s a mindset. Both of them are determined to make it. If they keep the attitude, I do see them winning throughout their high school career.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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