Track and field practices at Banks Trail Middle School are unusual, but the Timberwolves’ rise to success isn’t exactly ordinary either.
David Helms started the track program six years ago and didn’t have much participation on the girls’ side with all of seven runners on the team. Since, they developed into the York County Middle School champions last year and this season, the girls accomplished another first as the Timberwolves won the York County championship for the second straight season – this time, undefeated.
“It’s pretty remarkable considering we started six years ago with seven runners and have grown it into this,” Helms said. “Last year we lost about half of our girls to high school, but we had some pretty good seventh graders come up and our eighth graders did really well.
“It’s also pretty good considering we don’t have a track to run on, either.”
Helms said Fort Mill High Principal Dee Christopher has been kind enough to give Helms a key to the Yellow Jackets’ track for Saturday morning practices. Nearly every one of his athletes shows up to those Saturday practices, Helms said, but during the week the Timberwolves’ practices are improvised.
The coach said he traced out a 200-meter track at the school that includes a hand-off lane to get in practice with relay exchanging the baton. His jumpers have hand-dug a landing pit to practice the long jump and triple jump and the throwers go somewhere on the school’s campus to an area where their shot put and discus repetitions aren’t going to hit school property.
While the Timberwolves make due with what they have, they have certainly made a memorable impact at the York County championships, where the girls broke five school records and finished with 95.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Gold Hill, which scored 76.
The girls were led by Ashya Evans, who set a new school record and won the long jump (15 feet, 2 inches) and placed second in the high jump (4-10).
The Timberwolves 4x100 relay team team set a new school record, finishing in 52.91 seconds.
“We had so much depth that we were able to put multiple girls in some events and we had a lot of depth, which carried us this year,” Helms said.
In addition to the first-place winners, there were plenty of other scorers.
Those athletes included Victoria Jordan, who was second in the 100 (12.78), Mia Zimmerman, who finished second in the 1,600 (5 minutes, 55.78 seconds) and the Timberwolves placed second in the 4x400 relay (4:35.83).
Jordan added a third-place finish in the 200, setting a new school record (25.80) and Janna Willis finished third in the high jump (4-9), setting a new school record in the process.
Jamia White finished fourth in the 400 (1:04.83) and the Timberwolves placed fourth in the 800 sprint medley relay (2:07.60). Giada Ehresman finished fifth in the long jump (14-6), setting a new school record in the process.
Mikiya Lane placed sixth in the 100 (13.49) and finished sixth in the 200 (27.91), Zimmerman finished sixth in the 800 (2:48.40), Jaclyn Simmons tied for sixth in the high jump (4-0) and Jazya Diggs finished sixth in the discus (66-4).
Elana White finished seventh in the discus (65-7) and Mary Drolet finished eighth in the 800 (2:51.11).
While the girls were busy winning the county championship, the boys had some good showings in what Helms called sort of a rebuilding year after they lost much of last year’s team to local high schools.
“We really only had one boy who came back with experience, so we knew this would be sort of a down year,” he said. “But I told them that I’m proud of them. Any time you can finish in the top five that’s really good.”
Parker Dent led the way for the boys, finishing second in the shot put (41-9) and second in the discus (118-0).
The boys also placed second in the 800 sprint medley relay (1:52.82), setting a new school record in the process. Darius Pinckney placed fourth in the 200 (24.82) and was seventh in the high jump (5-0), Mark Desir was fourth in the shot put (39-2) and was fifth in the discus (101-1), Jack Noll placed seventh in the discus (101-1) and Banks Trail’s 4x400 relay placed eighth (4:20.65).
Others schools had winners
Several area schools also produced first-place finishers of their own.
Fort Mill Middle won four events as Reagan Lincoln won the boys 200 (23.41) and took first in the shot put (46-2). Jarius Johnson won the boys long jump (20-3) and Camryn Lorick won the girls high jump (4-11). Fort Mill Middle placed second in the boys meet and fourth in the girls.
Springfield Middle won the boys 4x400 (3:55.52) and finished seventh in both the boys and girls meet.
Gold Hill Middle’s Regan Hodge won the girls 800 (2:42.63) and took gold in the 1,600 (5:53.88) leading the girls to second place while the boys finished 12th.
But as Helms looked back on his girls’ first unbeaten season, he said he wanted to do something special.
The winner of the county championships typically wins a team trophy, but Helms and the administration bought individual medals to give his unbeaten girls team at the team banquet on May 4.
“We wanted to do something special for them since they are our first undefeated team this year,” he said. “Last year they won our first county championship in any sport, but to go undefeated is a great accomplishment for them.”