Frank Trammel and the rest of the Benton track and field coaching staff don’t always push their underclassmen into starring roles.
Instead, they have watched Quinci Middlebrooks reach out and grab it.
With Benton’s lead in the Region I-4A meet dwindling, Middlebrooks and teammate Katie McKay went 1-2 in the 3,200-meter run, effectively sealing the Lady Tigers’ regional title. Benton piled up 113 points, 11 more than runner-up Bastrop.
“Those girls did a great job,” Benton coach Barry Plunkett said.
“Coach Tramel’s philosophy is to bring them along slowly, but with (Middlebrooks), she just takes to the work, and we just rode her. Usually, we don’t put that pressure on her, but she just takes to the work. The more you depend on her, the better she does.”
Without a 4×400 relay team in the finals, the 3,200 was Benton’s last chance to score points and keep the Lady Rams from taking the title. Bastrop had cut Benton’s lead from 25 points to seven with three events remaining, including the 4×400, which Bastrop won by almost 5 seconds.
“We felt pretty good,” Plunkett said. “With (Middlebrooks) and Katie McKay, they’ve both come on — Katie especially in the last few weeks — we knew we had a chance.”
West Ouachita coach Jay Watson felt the same way on the boys side, although he was cheering for someone not in Chiefs’ colors.
“The 3,200 was the big thing,” said Watson, whose team shared the regional title last season with Huntington. “Benton’s so strong. We knew going into the 3,200, we were (Northwood runner) Dylan Oliver’s biggest fans. We were really pulling for him to split Benton, and he ended up winning the race.”
Oliver’s victory allowed the Chiefs to edge Benton, 89-83, and grab the boys regional championship.