By Andrew Stark
At last season’s Class 4A Western Regional girls track and field meet, the Butler quartet of Maxine Glenn, Breanna Lee, Felicia McCarthy and Alexis Davis teamed to post a second-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay in 49.11 seconds. The following week the group shaved nearly a second off that time – recording a 48.33 – but finished sixth overall at the state meet.
Now, with another year of experience under their belts and a heightened level of focus, the four Bulldogs are hoping last year’s postseason success was merely an introduction, both as a relay team and as individuals.
According to McCarthy, they’re putting in the work to make that hope a reality.
“I’ve gotten better at pushing myself to work harder and with more focus,” said McCarthy. “In practice, the coaches tell us to jog, but I’ve been actually running it and pushing myself really hard to make myself better. I think we’ve all been going really hard and pushing ourselves to get better and keep improving our personal-best times.”
McCarthy finished fifth in the long jump at last season’s regional meet by leaping 16 feet, 7.5 inches but said her increased workload this season has paid off. Like many of her teammates, she’s recently set personal bests in a number of events, including the triple jump (34-0), long jump (17-10) and 100 (13.14).
Davis won the regional triple jump title last season by clearing 36-2.5 and finished sixth at the state meet with an effort of 36-2.3. In April, Davis improved her already-impressive distances by setting personal bests in the long jump (17-2) and triple jump (37-7).
“It’s been a good year,” Davis said. “I’ve been training really hard, and I’m (not taking any) days off. I want to win states, and last year was definitely a good experience for me. It showed where I was and where I want to get to.”
Like several of her teammates, Davis already has qualified for the regional competition. She still believes her best performances are ahead of her, however, as she looks to defend her regional title on Saturday, May 11 at Asheville’s A.C. Reynolds High School.
She said she doesn’t need to look far for inspiration.
“We push each other,” Davis said of her relay team. “We want to be better than each other, and that helps us. It drives us. For me personally, I want to (set a personal record) every meet. That’s my goal the rest of the way, to keep getting better so I can peak at the state meet. I want to be the best in the state.”
That sentiment is shared by Lee, a sprinter who anchors both the 4×100 and 4×200 while also starring in the 100 for the Bulldogs. Last season, Lee set a personal best in the100 (12.08) at the regional meet, which was good for third place.
On the heels of her strong regional showing last season, Lee was hoping to make some waves at the state meet but ran a sub-par 12.43 in the preliminaries. She finished 12th and missed out on the chance to compete for a state championship.
This year she’s making amends for what she called a “disappointing” showing. Lee currently is undefeated in the 100, according to coach Mark Sanders.
“Last year I think I did really good, but I was let down by (my performance at) states,” Lee said. “I’m hard on myself now because I’m a senior and I want to take home a state title. I think we can win the 4×100 and 4×200, and I feel like I’ve done well running both of those events. I also want to win the 100 and think I have a good shot.”
Sanders said Lee was having shin problems at last year’s state meet, but he’s expecting her to make up for her performance this time around.
“Bre’s been undefeated this year, and I think she has great potential to win the 100,” Sanders said. “She runs the anchor in the 100 and 200 (relays), and we’re going to let her run the (open) 200 in the conference meet, and she’ll do really well there, too.”
The final relay member, Glenn, said that aside from the 4×100, the 300 hurdles, in which she set a personal-best of 49.03 this season, is her best event. She’s made convincing arguments in other events this season as well, as she’s set new personal standards in the 100 (12.94) and high jump (4-8) and has a season-best time of 19.84 in the 100 hurdles.
Glenn, who has dropped two seconds off her 300 hurdles time from last year, is hoping to qualify in that event at the state meet and is excited about the prospect of improving on her relay team’s strong showing last
“Even though (track and field is) an individual sport it’s very much a team sport, too,” Glenn said. “I like that I can push myself as an individual and still be part of a team.”
The individual success its members have enjoyed this season seems to be paying off for the 4×100 team in the form of momentum as the regional and state meets draw near. The team has won its last two races and recently posted a time of 48.64 at a meet at Mallard Creek on April 17, which is in line with where it hopes to be.
“So far, most of the team has (set personal records), and it seems we’ve been doing it recently,” Lee said. “It shows that our hard work and dedication is paying off. If I set my (personal record), then they see that and everyone wants to keep up with each other. It’s a team effort.”
While the relay team members are making strides of their own, several other Butler girls standouts are hoping to leave their marks.
Sophomore Stephany Sislava has recorded her career-best times in the 800 (2 minutes, 34.27 seconds), 1,600 (5:55.27) and 3,200 (13:52.20) and posted a season-best mark in the 1,600 (6:00.10) – all in the last two months.
Mary Butler Fleming has excelled in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 200. The Bulldogs also have received strong showings from Nia Baker (shot put, discus), Brionna Knight (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, long jump, triple jump), Lisa Peebles (100, 200), and Keyanah Richardson (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, high jump, long jump, triple jump).
Still, the foursome of Davis, Lee, Glenn and McCarthy will have the most weight on its shoulders as it looks to improve on last year’s 4×100, while the runners also hope to capitalize on the strides they’ve made in their individual events.
“I want to win the conference, win the regionals and have a good, top-10 finish in the state,” McCarthy said. “It would mean a lot to accomplish my goals, and it would let me know that my hard work is paying off. I’ve been working out really hard, so it would be rewarding.”
And as much as each runner wants to attain individual success, Lee summed up what it’d mean to expand on what the 4×100 team started last season and how that goal has helped push each member to improve in her own right.
“The 4×100 is good because it’s a team, and we’re a family who’s hard on each other and depend on each other,” Lee said. “We want to go out with a bang. I think last year we did good, but this year we’re going to do better. We want to push each other and not let any one of us down.
“I think that’s how we all are on this team. We thrive off each other and want to do our best for each other.”