According to Drew Bell, head track coach at James Clemens High, the success of both the boys and girls track teams has been due to how the student/athletes have been committed, dedicated and their refusal to lose. “A lot of these athletes have been here for five years and have been very competitive for so long and they’re used to having confidence,” said Bell.
The start-up of the raw program five years ago has grown into a lavish group of athletes, which longed to become a most feared and winning addition to an already successful overall athletic program at the school. Bell has watched his group of talent brave harsh weather conditions even during the recent spring break to try and become a better product.
The fifth season of the track and field program is already best among the short history of the school. An example is the recent Huntsville Metro Championships. At the annual meet, the Jets’ boy’s team won the highly touted meet for the fourth consecutive year while the girl’s squad took the title for the third year in a row. In that completed competition, the girls won by 78 points over second place Huntsville and 84 points over third place Bob Jones. The boys posted a 49-point victory over Huntsville and a 97-point spread over third place Bob Jones. Overall, the Jets won 17 gold medals while establishing two new meet records and three new school records.
“Our kids use the belief system as they really do believe they can be the best,” added Bell. “We also use a captain system, whereas, we have three captains in each division and they don’t like mediocre people. They all want to be their best both in action and in the classroom.”
At the Class 7A Sectional, which James Clemens hosted last weekend, the girls won the Sectional for the fourth consecutive year while the boys took back they title they did not win last year, but have now won three of the last four years. The top five athletes in each event qualified for the State Meet in Gulf Shores this weekend. James Clemens qualified 37 athletes for the State Meet.
In the Sectional Meet, the Jets posted 10 first place finishes. Those top performances included Kennedy Reese, shot out, 38-6, Zuri Falkner, discus, 118-0, Ashlee Osaji, triple jump, 35-6.25, Jennifer Reis, pole vault, 10-9, Shataeya Ligon, 100-meter hurdles, 14.89, Girls 4 X 400, 3:57.97 (Audrey Blakley, Rachel Seeley, Uriah James, Ashlee Osaji), Noah Graham, pole vault, 14.1, Eric Bradshaw, 110-meter hurdles, 15.56 and javelin, 155.4, and James Edmonds, high jump, 6-4.
The girl’s program, according to Bell, is certainly above what he expected saying, “I knew we had a chance to be good, but I didn’t know we’d be so deep in talent. We have lots of depth.”
Some of those longtime James Clemens athletes that are leading the overall program as sort of the “old timers” are Jennifer Reis, Jase Bell, Korey Shively and Kennedy Reese. The boys are being spearheaded by the likes of Jay Lauderdale, Nolan Smith, Eric Bradshaw and Noah Graham. Combine those talents with some super underclassmen of the girl’s including sophomore Shataeya Ligon, who was named the Most Valuable Participant in the Huntsville Metro Championships, Vada Samuels and Ashlee Osaji and you have the basis of possibly winning at the State Meet this week in Gulf Shores.
“The boy’s program overall is still developing, but their standards are being raised each year, but they are not as deep in talent as the girl’s program,” said Bell.
The James Clemens track program currently holds four state records in Class 7A. All were set during the 2015 season. Those marks are led by Kayla Williams, a Mississippi State signee, who set classification records in both the long jump (18-feet, 10-inches) and triple jump (39-3.5). Joshu Burks, who signed with Auburn, has the record in the 100-meter dash (10.65) and the school also has the classification record in the boys 4 X 400 relay (3:21.31). Both Williams and Burks are having early success at their respective universities.
The current 180-member roster is full of rising stars and is a mixed bag of unsung heroes, all of which rally around each other like a family reunion. Much of the squad’s success comes from practices of techniques used years ago.
“We’re old school; hard work will assure something good will happen,” said Bell. -By Bob Labbe