By Matt Hill
JOHNSON CITY — Nikolai Simpson put his stamp on the competition Saturday at the Johnson City Invitational.
The Cyclone throwing standout came through with an upset win in the shot and then a win in the discus to continue his perfect season in both events at the prestigious meet held at Steve Spurrier Field/Sidney Smallwood Track.
The shot was a little bit of a surprise, and then it looked like he had it won before a late entry from Jefferson County gave him a scare.
Simpson threw 145, and then held off the last thrower of the day who had been involved in another event to win it.
“He had me on my heels on the last couple,” Simpson said. “Luck was in my favor today. I started getting very worried, but it was my day.”
Simpson was on vacation during Elizabethton’s spring break this week, and did not see the article in The Star Tuesday where Marion, Va standout Jeremy Stamper was being talked about as a tough one to beat in the shot.
Stamper didn’t have one of his better days, finishing fifth with a throw 42-03. Simpson threw his best shot of the year with a 46-03 and he took home the victory.
Simpson figured out Stamper would be tough, who has even been mentioned on ESPN’s Rise website.
“I never did read that paper, but once I saw him I knew I was going to be in trouble,” he said. “I just did what I had to do and got it done.”
With a perfect record after six events in three track meets, Simpson feels he continues to improve.
“I’m doing much better than last year,” he said. “I’ve upped my weight a little bit and the throws are going farther. I think I’ve most improved in the discus..”
If Simpson continues to improve, a perfect season all the way through Murfreesboro might be in the cards for the Cyclone.
“I don’t know about a perfect season, but that would be great,” he said,
This was a huge meet for Simpson and he does deserve a lot of credit for winning, but another great story for Elizabethton was how much the team is improving in distance running.
Led by a new school record in the mile by Abbi Pierce, the Cyclones had a great day on the track.
In addition to Pierce’s heroics, Elizabethton received personal bests from 11 different runners, including great performances from Dustin Heaton and Colby Atwell who had milestone runs.
Pierce had a phenomenal day, as she raced a mile not seen by anyone at Elizabethton.
Pierce broke the record set by Lindsey McAmis in 2005.
Elizabethton associate track coach Aaron Wood works with the distance runners, and he was thrilled to see his kids come to a huge meet and do so well in the event.
“We’re setting new records left and right, and with a month and a half left before the championship races the limits are endless,” Wood said.
However, it was Pierce that had the most people talking.
“To do this in a huge meet is outstanding,” Wood said. “She beat all the A-AA schools, and we’re pleased with the way she is growing and we’re looking forward to how she will continue to grow.
A lot of people thought Elizabethton track and field’s glory days were over with, but the coaching staff at EHS has them thinking those days may be returning soon.
“We’re starting a new tradition,” Wood said. “We’re coming back to a make a statement.”
The Cyclones’ Clayton Smith took fourth in the 100-meter dash.
At the Star’s Saturday deadline, Cody Baker edged out Happy Valley’s David Young in heat two of the 800-meter run.
Alexis Hammons finished in a four-way tie for second in the girls high jump with a jump of 4-10. Science Hill’s Jessica Norris easily won the event with a 5-2 mark.
Landon Baker, who is still trying to regain his form from last season, finished sixth in the 110 hurdles.
Happy Valley head coach Matt Estep put the Warriors through a difficult schedule to start the season, and he hopes it pays off down the road.
“We knew it would be tough here today, but good competition makes us better,” he said. “I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made so far this season, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming up.”