High School Sports

Westside girls track and field team takes aim at title

Westside track and field head coach James Hickenbotham’s antacid intake has increased the past couple of days.

His Seminoles girls team has been tabbed the favorite to win the GHSA Class AAA championship in this weekend’s meet by ga.milesplit.com, a website devoted to all things track and field.

“I looked at that and started on the Pepto Bismol,” Hickenbotham said of the site’s point compilation. “I think we have a legitimate shot, but when you get to that final level, you never know what can happen.”

Hickenbotham knows of what speaks.

He was an All-Sun Belt Conference sprinter and jumper as a two-sport athlete at Arkansas State a little more than a decade ago. Before moving to Westside three years ago, he coached at Mount de Sales, where his boys team was the GISA Class AAA runner-up twice and the girls once.

The ga.milesplit.com based its “virtual meet” on the times and distances compiled by competitors in sectional events. Those measures were then compared to other qualifiers as if they had been in the same meet.

The result was a projection of 71 points for Westside at the state meet, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany. Blessed Trinity was next with 61 and Jackson-Atlanta third at 51.5.

Westside will be represented in seven individual events and the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. The Seminoles are projected to get points in each led by sprinter Tamdra Lawrence, who owns the top time in the 100 and 200 meters, which would be worth 20 points if she won in Albany.

The senior, who already has signed with Murray State, helped the Seminoles to a ninth-place finish in last year’s Class AAAA meet.

“She’s been there the last couple of years, so she’s kind of the anchor,” Hickenbotham said of Lawrence. “She’s a great talent.”

Others in individual events are sophomore Mya Ford in the 400 and 800, senior Daisha Terry in the high jump, junior Iycis Hammock in the 300 hurdles and freshman Zoe Jordan in the triple jump. Ford won the 800 at sectionals and was third in the 400 at last year’s state meet.

The Seminoles’ other competitors will be freshmen D’ Nautica Chappell on the 4x100 team and Patra Walker on the 4x100. Terry, Ford and Lawrence are the other members of the 4x100 unit while Lawrence, Ford and Jordan complete the 4x400 team.

Track and field has increased its profile among Westside athletics the past couple of years. The Seminoles won their first region title this year, as well as a second straight Bibb County crown.

“The kids have sacrificed a lot of time in the offseason and dedicated themselves for this to be a special team,” said Hickenbotham, who played professional football after leaving Arkansas State in 2003 as a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League and with the Macon Knights. “They’ve been determined to make people know this sport can be successful like the others.”

Ford is projected to earn 18 points for a win in the 800 and a runner-up in the 400. The relay teams also are projected for 18 points while Hammock (6), Jordan (5) and Terry (4) finish the website’s total for Westside.

“(Projection) is simply on past times and distances,” Hickenbotham said. “It’s just that (a projection). Anything can happen. This isn’t my first rodeo.”

Hickenbotham said he had few doubts his competitors would find out that others think highly of their title chances.

“Most of them are so young, I don’t want to overload them mentally where they maybe psych themselves out and show up at the starting line with one spike on,” Hickenbotham said. “I’m proud of them no matter what they do, but I’ve seen their effort and know what they’re capable of.

“If we come back with a trophy of any kind it’ll be amazing for the kids, the program and the school in general.”