By Matt Hill
BRISTOL — Tyerell Hughes was running for two schools on Thursday at the Tennessee High track and field meet.
Hughes competes for Happy Valley, but actually attends Cloudland about 40 minutes away. He finished seventh in the 3,200, but as a freshman looks like is going to be a huge star.
Hughes was not able to compete in the 1,600 because the meet was postponed after two thunderstorm delays.
Hughes actually led part of the race, but was overtaken by more experienced runners. It’s just another learning experience for the Roan Mountain native.
“I put in a lot of work, I do track five days a week for about three hours a day and train on my off days and lift weights and eat right,” Hughes said.
Not only does Hughes put in a lot of training, his family sacrifices a lot of time to help him succeed as a runner.
Hughes runs in area road races and travels all over the region to do it.
After school, Hughes leaves Roan Mountain and travels over 20 miles to West Carter County to be on the Happy Valley High School track and cross country teams. Hughes says it’s all worth it.
“Hopefully, when I graduate in three years, I will get a college scholarship to go run at Tennessee or ETSU or somewhere like that,” Hughes said. “It’s pretty rough, but it’s worth doing.”
Though Hughes is running for Happy Valley and does consider himself part Warrior, he is definitely still a Highlander and the Roan Mountain community has embraced his craft with open arms.
The students at Cloudland High School are very proud of this young man, and they do consider what he does to be part of Cloudland’s athletic accomplishments.
“If I get any trophies they put it in the front halls and they put in the school newspaper,” Hughes said. “They’ve been very supportive.”
Hughes says the Happy Valley kids have welcomed him like he’s one of them.
“They treat me like I’m family and they’re a big part of my life, too,” Hughes said.
Though Hughes didn’t win or place Thursday, the future is extremely bright for him.
“I’m going to work harder in practice and put more effort into it,” he said. “I’m going to run extra and run more and then next year (when he comes to this meet) I will do better.”
While Hughes is just beginning his career, Elizabethton thrower Nikolai Simpson is in his prime.
Simpson, going up against kids from Class AAA schools like Tennessee High and Daniel Boone, defeated them all en route to victories in the discus and shot put.
Simpson had to battle the weather and just finished off the shot put right before the second thunderstorm hit.
For Simpson, he won despite not being at his best.
“It wasn’t my best throwing day, but it was good enough to get the win,” he said.
Unlike the ’80s and ’90s, when the Cyclones went up against Class AAA competition on a consistent basis, they are entering their second decade in Class AA and don’t get to go up against the big schools all the time.
Beating throwers from schools like Tennessee High gives Simpson prestige and recognition throughout Northeast Tennessee.
“It makes me work even harder,” he said. “I’ve seen better competition at state.”
Simpson knows he had to battle some adversity, but he showed a lot of mental strength as well as physical strength.
“I had to keep my head on and stay in the mode and get it done,” he said.