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LaFollette boys pace field in 2013

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

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The LaFollette Middle School boys’ track team is off to a quick start in 2013.

The Owls have gone undefeated, thus far, as they’ve swept even the private schools of Knoxville.

“They’re very proud of themselves,” LaFollette track coach Tiffany Bruce said. “They’re working really hard in practice. They come to practice, and they take it very seriously. They’re very focused, and I think it’s paying off for them at the meets.”

That hard work showed last Thursday night, as the Owls walked away with a huge victory at a meet at Anderson County High School.

LaFollette scored 201 points in the meet, with its closest competitor being Jacksboro, who scored 99 points.

“It’s fun coming out here and being able to win and beat Jacksboro,” Cody Boshears said. “It was like payback for football season. It was an experience.”

According to eighth grader Austin Stone, however, the Owls aren’t just focused on Jacksboro.

LaFollette has its eyes set on defeating each opponent this season.

“We’ve prescribed to beat everyone that wants to come challenge us,” Stone said. “I think it’s pretty cool that we have athletes that can stand up to other athletes in this area. That’s pretty neat.”

However, according to his coach, it’s all about team dynamic.

With such a deep team for LaFollette this season, it’s becoming a plus.

According to Bruce, she has five or six boys for her relay teams, while she only needs four.

“That gives them plenty of time to rest in between events,” Bruce said. “That’s the same thing with our distance. I have about a half a dozen boys that can run the 800, the mile, or the two-mile. Again, it gives them a chance to switch their competitions from meet to meet.”

With no clear points leader on the team, it takes the entire squad at the meets.

However, according to Bruce, that gives the team a more cohesive feel, building their comradery. With no clear leader, they depend on each other.

“I think it makes a big difference as a team,” Bruce said. “They can win together and celebrate together.”

That team spirit will help LaFollette, as they look to face their toughest challenge later in the season.

With sectionals on their minds, there’s only one team that tops the list for the Owls to defeat.

Maryville.

The Rebels have been a thorn in LaFollette’s side for many seasons, according to Bruce.

“It’s been years,” she said. “This is my fourth year as head coach at the middle school, and I’ve helped other coaches such as Coach (Billie Anne) Evans. It’s been at least five years since we’ve defeated Maryville and won the Sectional. We’ve really got our eyes set on that as our prize.”

That might not be a far goal, as the Owls score in bunches.

In 15 events at Thursday’s meet, the top six finishers were taken.

LaFollette had 31 scoring athletes out of the possible 83 scoring positions.

However, the Lady Owls outdid their counterparts in the Anderson County meet.

“With the girls’ team, we have a lot of girls that have been with us sixth grade, seventh grade and eighth grade,” Bruce said. “They’ve grown. We’ve grown their skills and become very detailed oriented with their training.”

It proved itself on Thursday, as LaFollette took 35 of the 76 scoring positions.

The Jacksboro Lady Eagles took 25 of the remaining 41.

Among the highlights was Kasi Phillips in the 3200 meter.

Phillips ran the two-mile race in 14:19.38, with her closest competitor crossing the line at 15:15.36.

“She’s been wanting to break 14 minutes, and she’s been knocking at the door,” Bruce said. “She’s just within a few seconds of doing that. She’s been working on some foot work and speed work that I think will pay off in the next couple of weeks.”

However, even though her time was quick, Phillips said a competitor could have helped her lower her times even closer to that elusive 14-minute mark.

“It’s exciting,” she said of the win. “When you don’t have someone pushing you harder, it’s harder to beat your times.”

Phillips next chance will come tonight, Thursday, March 28, as LaFollette and Jacksboro host their home meet at Campbell County High School. The 3200 is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.