When Haughton sprinter Micah Larkins looks down the line before the start of the 100-meter dash at today’s LHSAA Class 3, 4 and 5A state championship meet at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium, he will see a friendly face.
Until they leave the blocks. At that point, Larkins, teammate, Ty Shilling, and the rest of the field will battle.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it gives me confidence, because I know someone lining up with me and that he’s going to push me,” Larkins said. “We do have a friendly rivalry. We don’t really bring it out at practice, but when it’s time to race, that’s when it all comes out.”
Larkins finished third in the 100 at last year’s state meet and is tied with West Jefferson’s Devin Scott with the fastest qualifying time this year at 10.70 seconds. Shilling isn’t far off at 10.84.
“I’m excited, and I think it’s going to be a great race between me and Ty,” said Larkins, who is also running for the Buccaneers’ 4X100- and 4X200-meter relay teams. “After (finishing third last year), I know what I have to bring to the table this year. I got to see all of those fast sprinters and get a feel for it. The intensity changes at state. I know I will have to run my best.”
Larkins and Shilling are just two of many area athletes facing off today in Baton Rouge. Captain Shreve’s Jared Shepherd and Haughton’s Javonte Woodard will run against each other in the 110-meter hurdles for a third straight week.
Airline’s Jaquvis Hart and Parkway’s Cory Hamilton have been responsible for two incredible finishes in the past two weeks. Hart barely took first at the District 1-5A meet (winning 48.60 to 48.61), and Hamilton took the regional championship 47.76 to 47.92 – the two fastest qualifying times in the state.
But Airline coach Scott Reeder isn’t adding any pressure. The Vikings, the Class 5A Region I champions on the boys side, are treating today like any other.
“We don’t really even talk about it,” Reeder said. “We didn’t talk about winning the district meet. We didn’t talk about winning a regional championship. We just have an understanding that, if everyone does their job, we have a chance. It’s the same principles. If everyone just focuses on doing a little better than they did last week, we will do well. No pressure on anybody.”
Two other area regional champion teams are competing at today’s state meet. North DeSoto’s boys in Class 3A and Benton’s girls in Class 4A.
“Without a doubt, the higher number of runners and field athletes you have down there, the better chance you have to score points,” Benton coach Scott Carroway said. “A lot of times, depending on your region, you see teams chop each other up. You have some people sitting home, who finished fourth in regionals, who could have scored points at state. We were fortunate to have a good day at the regional meet and qualify a lot of people.”
Carroway expects his Tigers and Lady Tigers to perform well at today’s championship meet.
“Maddie Sessions, who was third in the javelin last year at state, has been improving every week,” Carroway said. “She has an opportunity to do well. Quinci Middlebrooks (1,600- and 3,200-meter runs) is another who has improved a lot. .”
Reeder almost didn’t want his athletes to see the state heat sheets with qualifying times, heights and distances.
“We haven’t worried about what other people run, jump or throw all year,” Reeder said. “Those heat sheets don’t matter. That’s what I told all of our guys, especially in the field events. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past. All that matters is what you do (Saturday).”