By Matt Hill
BLOUNTVILLE — Unsung heroes rose to the occasion for the Elizabethton Lady Cyclone track and field team Thursday afternoon at Sullivan Central High School.
In a seven-team meet hosted by the Cougars, EHS was led by the heroics of Tori Cruz, as she won first place in the shot put in what was a very strong meet for the Lady Cyclones.
Happy Valley was in the meet as well, and also had a very special performance with Alexis Hammons taking first in the high jump.
In the same event Cruz won in, Lydia Honeycutt tallied a third-place finish.
The Lady Cyclones’ star of the day was Cruz, as she went from looking for her big break to superstar all in one day.
Cruz threw a 32-01 en route to winning her first ever title.
“There was a lot of hard effort put into and I’m thankful to the people who have helped me,” Cruz said.
Two Class AAA schools were in the event, and with the Cyclones facing a brutal schedule, Cruz is going up against some of the best every time out.
It can be a tough thing to think about, but Cruz blocks everything out and does the job she needs to do, even when the team is late to the meets because of lack of available buses.
“It’s just one of those things where you have to get your act together quick and do what you have to do,” she said. “You have to work with what you’ve got.”
Cruz believes the adversity the team has had to face this year set up a great afternoon like the one she experienced Thursday.
“We’re a team that is going to work as hard as we can for the team, not just for our personal bests but for everybody because we all try really hard to do our best.”
The throws themselves went perfectly, and were the best she had ever done.
Winning was a thrill for Cruz, something she really wants to do every time out.
“There’s always room for improvement, and the whole team works hard. We always strive for a new achievement,” she said.A new achievement is what Kimberly Birkner had as well.
Birkner finished third in the girls 3,200-meter run, better known as the two-mile.
Still a relative newcomer to this kind of running, the Lady Cyclone soccer player ran the best race of her career.
“That was the best I have ever ran today,” Birkner said. “This is the first time I have ever ran the two mile, and I was running a lot off of nervousness. It was really scary.”
Birkner showed she had some talent in distance running, and not surprising coming from the well-known athletic family she is a part of.
Birkner’s grandfather, Danny, and great uncle, David, are both well-known football and basketball officials. Birkner also has a brother, Michael, who recently played soccer for EHS.
Kimberly seems to be following in their shoes quite nicely, and feels she has inherited some of the Birkner family genes.
“I think so,” Kimberly said when asked about inheriting the Birkner family athletic talent.
Birkner admits she can work even harder and improve. She will be hard to beat when that happens.
“Lately I haven’t put as much effort in as I could, but I try as hard as I can usually in my practices,” she said.
It was also an outstanding day for Abbi Pierce, who finished second in the girls 1,600-meter run.
Pierce continues to get better, and looks to be a major force in future years.
Nikolai Simpson continues to be a major force for the Cyclone boys, as he won the shot put and discus once again.
Simpson will be tested even more so next Saturday at the Johnson City Invitational.
Hunter Hughes finished fifth in the 110 hurldes. Happy Valley’s Landon Baker finished third in the same event.
Speaking of the Warriors, it was a great afternoon for Alexis Hammons.
The Happy Valley standout won the girls high jump with a leap of 4-10.
Hammons was able to breeze by a group of tough competitors for the win.
“It’s pretty nice to win,”
Hammons was a little nervous at first, but once she was in a groove, she couldn’t be stopped.
“The biggest thing was being able to calm down and get my form perfect,” she said. “Once I calm down, I just go.”
After winning the competition, Hammons tried to make 5-0 three times and was just as determined if not determined even more.
Hammons didn’t clear it, but the hunger was there to achieve the milestone.
“I don’t like to lose,” she said. “Finishing second is not an option.”
The sky is the limit for Hammons, and lofty goals are what she is pursuing.
“I’m hoping to break our school record before the season ends,” she said.
Tyerell Hughes improved on his Bristol performance from last week by finishing fourth in the 3,200 boys run.
A steady downpour arrived right before the meet ended, but it was able to finish. It was the second straight week the Cyclones and Warriors had weather issues.