Yellowjackets reach Elite status
Martavious Foster, Charles Hughes, Walker Mattox, Julien Lewis, Devin Mitchell, Jacoby Smith and Gabriel Myles are just a few of the Starkville High School track athletes expected to take part in the Class 6A North State meet at Mississippi State Saturday. (Submitted photo)
Martavious Foster has shown his skill as a powerlifter and as a tight end on the football team for the Starkville Yellowjackets during the last school year.
The ability to throw the disc for the SHS track team may be his most impressive contribution to the athletic program to date.
Foster threw the disc 152-8 at the region meet last week to reach second-team United States Elite Status.
It has been a steady progression for Foster in throwing the disc.
"It was just practice," Foster said. "When I first started, I think my first throw was like 78 (feet). As the season progressed and we kept going to meets, I started getting personal bests. I started out about 97 at our first official meet, then went to 114, 127, 135, 141 and 152."
Along with Foster, the members of the 4x200 relay team of the Jackets also made second-team second-team U.S. Elite.
"National Elite means you are one of the top in the nation, but that could be top 20, or it could mean top five," Starkville track coach Chris Barnett said. "There is a certain qualifying mark and if you hit that mark, you are elite. Sometimes there can be 50 teams that hit that mark and other years there may be five teams that hit that National Elite mark."
Julien Lewis, Devin Mitchell, Gabe Myles and Jacoby Smith of the 4x200 team ran a 1:29.56 for Elite status.
The Jackets didn't have a relay team qualify for state last season so Lewis said that's been a point of emphasis.
"We came out in the first of the year to practice real hard and we've really pushed ourselves this year," Lewis said. "We wanted to come out, get our exchanges right and make everything perfect. We're still working on it, but we can get it."
Smith believes if the relay team can be sure of the exchange, a state championship can be captured in a couple of weeks.
As the sophomore member of the group, Smith wants to contribute however he can.
"I'm the only sophomore to run on the 4x200 so I have to lean on my team," Smith said.
Smith, Lewis, Myles and Mitchell all agree that hard work and dedication haveÂ allowed them to reach this level.
"We came out here when it was cold," Myles said "We were out here trying to work on these handoffs and getting it right. Our plans are to win state. You can't do it without a team so the 4x400, 4x200 and 4x100 have to be ready."
Mitchell has shown his speed on the football and baseball fields.
He said an athlete can't just show up on game day and expect to perform well.
"We run until we can't run anymore," Mitchell said of preparation in practice. "You have to put in the work in order to be the best. Being the best is something we're trying to do."
The next step in that process will be the Class 6A North State meet which will be hosted by Starkville at the Maddox Track Facility at Mississippi State on Saturday.
Several other Jackets and Lady Jackets have qualified for North State and look to take the next step to State.
Other SHS athletes on the verge of making Elite status in their events are Kamau Bostic in the 800 meters, Charles Hughes in the 110 high hurdles, Lewis in the 100-meter dash and Walker Mattox in the 3,200-meter run.
Bostic has already run a 1:59 in the 800 meters and will also run the 1,600-meter run and on the 4x400 relay team at North State. Hughes leaped the 110 high hurdles in 14.99 and will participate in the 300 intermediate hurdles and on the 4x400 relay team. Lewis' time in the 100-meter dash is 10.82 and runs on all three relay teams. Mattox has a time of 11:57 in the 3,200-meter run and is also involved in the 800-meter run and the 1,600-meter run.
As only an 8th grader, it's Barnett's belief that Mattox already has what it takes to claim a state championship in all three long-distance events.
"Walker broke 12 this past week (in the 3,200 meters) then turned around and ran a 5:29 in the mile so she's one of those making huge strides," Barnett said.
The other SHS participants at the North State meet will be Marcus Tate in the shot put, Jalan Catledge in the triple jump, 400-meter dash and 4x400 relay, Joseph MacGown in the 3,200-meter run, Stanley Childs in the long jump and 4x100 relay, Abigail Arinder in the 3,200-meter run and Elizabeth Stringer in the 1,600-meter run and 800-meter run.
Stringer is the 800-meter regional champion and Catledge is the triple jump region champion.
Barnett likes his team and likes this time of the year when he see the Jackets put forth their best and see what happens.
"We have a great group of runners this year," Barnett said. "Any of the kids who have made it this far is getting everything they've put in throughout the year. Our kids have worked hard day in and day out. It's beginning to show."
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