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It’s often said that a team tends to take on the personality of its coach.
That’s the case this year at Thomas Nelson High School, where the track team has an array of long distance runners, reflecting the strength of coach Matt Hoyes, a running and adventure sport enthusiast.
“That is definitely going to be our bread and butter,” Hoyes said. “Our top two runners are both very strong and they complement one another very well.”
He’s describing sophomore Jarrett Mattingly and senior Nathan Hagan, each of whom qualified for the state Class 1A meet in the school’s inaugural season.
Mattingly set a personal best in the mile (1600 meters) in a meet last week. He also competes in the two-mile. Thomas Nelson moves to Class 2A Region 2 this season.
“I am hoping to make it back to the state in the mile again,” Mattingly said. “My best time this year is 5:03 and I am hoping to get down to 4:45 or 4:50,” which he did in Friday’s Central Hardin Invitational, where Mattingly placed sixth in a tough field with a 4:51.60 mark.
He says that he needs to improve his time in the middle two laps.
“While Jarrett’s major strength is in the mile and the two-mile, Nathan is very solid in distances just a bit shorter,” Hoyes said. “He is focusing more this year on the 800 meters.”
Hoyes said that senior Jacob Richardson did not participate in track last season because he was concentrating on football. He is competing in some of the field events, helping the Generals in some events that they were not able to score points in last season.
“Jacob is one of those kids who just likes to keep busy,” the coach said. “He is throwing both shot put and discus and has learned a lot by watching some of the others guys at our meets. He’s picked up on it real well.”
Thomas Nelson did not have enough runners last year to field teams in some of the sprint races, but the numbers are up this season and Hoyes is able to use them.
Freshman Brandon Darby ran as an eighth-grader and is a specialist in the relay sprints.
“He is also our first pole-vaulter,” Hoyes said. “In our two events this season, the schools haven’t had pole vault pits so he hasn’t been able to compete yet.”
Perhaps the athlete who has turned the most heads this spring is basketball star Kevin N’dahiro, who is participating in the high jump.
“Kevin is such a gifted athlete,” the coach said. “He’s only been able to compete in one meet so far, but when people see a 6-9 kid, they pay attention.”
It will be a different dynamic on the girls’ side as the team is covered with sprinters.
“Last year we couldn’t field a team in those events,” Hoyes said. “We’re still trying to figure out who is going to run in what event because we have so many good runners.”
A pair of freshmen tops the list in Maggie Parrish and Alexis Malone. “Parrish will compete in both the 4x100 and the 4x200 while Malone is best in the 4x100.
Sisters Sadie (junior) and Caroline (freshman) Middleton will also be key contributors.
“Sadie has been running since she was in the 6th grade and has as much experience as much of the team combined,” her coach said. “She also runs cross country and her shortest race for us is the 4x800.”
Sadie Middleton says that she has not come as close to qualifying for the state meet as she would like.
“I’ve shown a lot of improvement the past couple of weeks,” she said. “I ran a 14:16 in the two mile (last Thursday) and I’m hoping to be able to get my time down even more. I really want to make it to state.”
Sophomore Cheyenne Unger has been solid in several events including the high jump and long jump while also throwing the discus.
And then there’s junior Evelyn Tichenor, a standout in basketball and volleyball.
Described by her coach as one of the best all-around athletes in the school, Tichenor has great speed and can jump.
“You’re only allowed to run in four events, but I could use Evelyn in eight and she would do well,” Hoyes said. “She is new to track but she is such a good athlete.”