As the Eastern View boys 4x100-meter relay team prepared to run in the Class 4 state track and field meet at Lynchburg’s Liberty University last Saturday, it had one particular goal in mind: qualifying for nationals.
Thomas Yates, Josh Logan, DaShaun Presley and Ashton King are the four athletes who make up the team. After placing first at the Region 4B meet, the quartet was ranked 10th entering states with a time of 43.35. In order to qualify for the New Balance Emerging Elite Outdoor Nationals, they would need to register a time of 43.25.
The four Cyclones did better than that, placing fourth in the state with a school-record time of 42.84.
“The boys had great hand-offs and took the lead with a perfect second exchange between [Logan] and [Presley],” Eastern View head coach Raymond Gee said. “Once [King] took the baton, he sped away from the pack to put the finishing touch on that school record.”
Gee said he noticed some things the team could improve upon both during and after regionals that he believes led to its success at states.
“We saw some things that needed to be fixed with how the the boys were adjusting the baton while running and they were able to make that change,” Gee said. “We changed the order as well.”
The Cyclones actually switched the order during the Region 4B meet. King, who had been the third leg, moved to the anchor position. Yates moved from the anchor to the first slot, while Presley moved from first to third.
“We’ve always known how hard [Yates] works at chasing people, so he was usually last,” Gee said. “But [King] is very dangerous with a baton in his hand as well, so we put him in the anchor spot and moved Thomas to first. [Presley] has recently peaked in his performance and he runs an excellent third leg, which was a game-changer. [Logan] has always been at second and he does a good job eating up the back stretch for us.”
Going into the state meet, Gee said he was very confident the group could get the qualifying time it needed to earn a trip to nationals. Yates, in particular, was so focused on the team’s success that he opted out of competing in the long jump, which was held at the same time as the relay.
As a senior, Yates is a leader of sorts for the squad. The other three members are all sophomores.
“Thomas wanted to save his legs because the guys’ main goal was to make nationals in that relay,” Gee said. “He basically said, ‘This won’t be my last high school meet.’”
Gee’s voice was full of optimism when talking about the trio of underclassmen.
“The most exciting part of this whole thing is there are three sophomores who have now participated in two state meets and are headed to nationals,” he said.
The relay team will travel to Greensboro, N.C. for nationals, which will be held June 13-16 on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University.
Eastern View had another standout performance at the state meet as well. Senior Michael Blevins finished fourth in the high jump with a mark of 6-2.
“[Blevins] started his indoor season not being able to clear 5-6,” Gee said. “At our first outdoor meet he qualified for states with a jump of 6-0 and his season best was 6-4.”
Blevins competed on the Cyclones track team for two years. He also competed in the shot put, discus throw, long jump and served as an alternate for the 4x100 relay team during that time.
Blevins’ high jump coach, Andrew Downey, knew he had the potential to do great in the event.
“Michael has always had the ability to succeed, it just took some time for him to notice what was happening and fine tune it,” Downey said. “I had him train above what I expected him to achieve. I realized he had the height to get over the bar, but because the bar was too low, he was missing it. So we started training him at nothing less than 5’10”-6’0”, which forced him to learn how to jump at higher heights while working on his form as well. He started to see success and trusted what we were doing, so it all really came together when it needed to.”