By DANNY P. SMITH
It has been a long time coming for the Starkville Yellowjackets.
The SHS track program has never before hosted a North State track meet, but that won't be the case after today when Classes 4A and 6A gather at the Spencer Stadium/Maddox Track facility at Mississippi State for competition.
The Jackets are glad to finally be able to say they are having a home meet, especially one as important as North State, in their own backyard.
"We've been going away so long," SHS sophomore sprinter Gabe Myles said. "Now we've got one at home and we've got our family here."
The possibility of MSU being the site of the North championships for 4A and 6A were discussed by J.Z. George coach Heath Dudley and his brother Steve, who happens to be the head coach of the Bulldogs.
"(Heath Dudley) was talking with his brother and was saying we are looking for a place to host the North State meet," SHS coach Chris Barnett said. "Normally, we go up to Tupelo and not that it's bad, but you have Mississippi State here willing to come in and say we'll run off that North State meet. They even wanted more classes, but we're going to have 4A and 6A now. They wanted as many classes as they could there because State wants to promote themselves plus it gave us a chance to promote our name."
Senior disc thrower Martavious Foster's mother has never seen him perform with the Jackets so he's looking forward to having her and other family members in the stands.
That's not the only reason Foster is anxious to have the meet in Starkville.
"We don't have to wake up at 5 in the morning to go up to Tupelo or something like that," Foster said.
Mississippi State has made improvements to its facility and has already hosted one high school event and three college events, including the SEC/Big 10 Challenge in March.
"(MSU's) brand new facility is second to none," Barnett said. "We're going to be the host school, but (MSU) is going to be handling most of the stuff because they are using their equipment."
Being able to compete on a nice surface will be nice for the participants, but the attraction for those who watch will be a talented group of athletes in several different events.
Barnett said there won't be a shortage of impressive entries in the mix.
"There will be 12 national elite first-team or second-team teams or individuals," Barnett said. "Everybody in the 4x200 from Tupelo, Southaven, Madison Central and us are all first-team or second-team National Elite 4x200 teams. There will also be three national elite disc throwers as well.
"Tupelo has a first-team National Elite, which means they are one of the top schools in the nation."
Competing for the Jackets will be the second-team United State Elite 4x200 relay team of Myles, sophomore Jacoby Smith, sophomore Devin Mitchell, and senior Julien Lewis. Foster is also a second-team U.S. Elite with a throw of 152-8 this season.
Smith also runs the open 400 meters and the 4x400 relay, while Mitchell and Myles participates on the 4x100 relay, and Lewis runs the 100 meters, an event he has already had a time of 10.82 this season, and the 4x100 and 4x200.
Kamau Bostic contributes in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter long distance runs and helps the 4x400 relay. Charles Hughes competes in 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
Walker Mattox, an 8th-grade long distance specialist for the SHS girls, takes part in the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs. She has a time of 11:57 in the 3,200-meter run this season.
Also running distance for the Lady Jackets is Mary Elizabeth Stringer in the 800 meters and 1,600 meters and Abigail Arinder in the 3,200 meters. Stringer is the region champion in the 800 meters. Joseph MacGown participates in the 3,200 meters for the SHS boys.
Jalan Catledge is the triple jump regional champion and he also runs the 400 meters and 4x400 relay, while Marcus Tate throws the shot put, and Stanley Childs leaps in the long jump and helps the 4x100 relay.
Since the Jackets are holding the meet in their town, they want to put on a show for the home crowd.
"We've got to prove to everybody we're the best and that's what we're striving to be," Mitchell said.
The action begins with the field events and the 3,200-meter run at 10 a.m. The other running events start at noon.
Admission will be $5 per person and concessions will be available. Barnett likes the fact there will be plenty of seating and hopes people will take advantage of watching what he calls "a huge event for Starkville High School."
"We are looking for all of the support in the community to come cheer on our boys and girls team," Barnett said. "Our boys team has a chance of winning a state title if everything falls into place (today). However, if our kids don't step up, we could just as easily fall out of the running. But that's why you compete."