Tribe Thinclads at Meet of Champions

Thursday, May 21, 2015
State champion Nick McKinnie at the 3A state meet in Prescott with his medals.(courtesy photo)

Five members of the Piggott Mohawk track team traveled to Russellville on Saturday, May 16, to take part in the annual Meet of Champions. The members of the Tribe qualified for the honor based on their performances in the 3A state track meet, held Monday, May 11, at Prescott.

The Mohawks were represented by senior Nick McKinnie, who won the 3A meet in both the 100 and 200 meter dash. Also attending based on his performance at Prescott was Seth Lacey, who had finished second to fellow Clay County resident Clint Harvey in the shot put.

Also making the trip to Russellville were members of the 4x100 relay team, which includes McKinnie along with fellow senior Bradley Stephens, junior Logan Dixon and sophomore Justin Goding. The relay squad did not qualify at Prescott, as they were second in the state meet, but their time was among the tops in the state which gained them the invitation.

The Mohawk 4x100 relay team includes, from left: Justin Goding, Bradley Stephens, Nick McKinnie and Logan Dixon.(courtesy photo)

In looking back on his state titles, McKinnie notes the experience was surreal, "It felt different, it's just been awhile since anyone had done that and it took some time for it to soak in," he recalled afterward. "I was really excited and I started looking for coach (Michael Harrell) and the guys, and then it sunk in that I'd be getting a ring-and then a little later I won another one."

For Coach Michael Harrell, the chance to coach such talented athletes has been a pleasure--and afforded him the rare chance to coach a state champion. "Nick's the first state champion I've had the chance to coach, and he got two of them," the second year coach noted with a smile. "I've had a chance to coach Nick since back in his peewee days, and he's always been a fast kid. And, he's young--Nick's only 17, so he could just as easily have been a junior. But it just seems like in the last few months he's really come on."

In previous years McKinnie had generally ran second to his speedy teammate, Bradley Stephens, but this spring he gained an advantage. "Bradley has always been just a hair faster than Nick in the 100 and 200, but this year in the weeks after basketball season Nick has really come on--and as the track season went on he just kept getting faster and faster," Harrell explained.

The speedy young Mohawk points to the preparation afforded by Harrell, along with coaches Walter Rau and Shawn Hearn, as keys to his success. "We did a lot more work as a team this year, especially me, Bradley, Logan and Justin. We did a lot more 100s and practiced our exchanges for the relay team behind the old gym," McKinnie noted. "We found out last year that we were pretty good and knew that going into the season this year. We actually felt we could compete for a state title in the 200 and 4x100, but then I surprised everyone--including myself, in the 100."

McKinnie's success also came after he injured an ankle late in the football season, an injury which also plagued him much of the basketball season. "You know he tweaked his ankle in the first quarter of the Corning game and didn't get to play that game," Harrell noted. "So he went into basketball with a bum ankle, but during the season he continued to get better and he came back even faster."

"I am so proud of him, he set a new school record in the 200 and his time of 11.21 in the 100 is just a tick off the 11.13 school record of Tate Fuwell," he added. "But, Tate's record was on a handheld stopwatch back in 1994, and Nick's was electronically timed."

Harrell pointed to McKinnie's strong work ethic as one of the key reasons for his improvements. "He has really worked hard, this is something he has wanted and worked toward for the past several years," Harrell noted. "He just has a great work ethic."

Much of this may also be attributed to the work of Harrell, as McKinnie notes, "he influenced me a lot, and pushed me to do my best. He put in some new training this year and helped us work on things like our breathing and take-offs. He really helped us get in shape and ready for this year's track season."

Another key to McKinnie's continued improvement is the friendly rivalry he enjoys with Stephens. "Those two fed off of each other--they're as tight as they can be, and real good friends," Harrell explained. "And, when one of them would do good the other was just a hair behind them--and they would just push each other and push each other."

The parity between the two longtime friends, and teammates, was evident in the district meet as Stephens ran second to McKinnie in the 100 meters at the district meet and was third at state.

"Me and Bradley have always been competitive, all our lives over one thing or another since we were little kids," he recalls. "I always knew that if I pushed him I'd be doing good and if he pushed me he would too--but it's all good to me, we're family. I've always thought of him as a big brother, we're family."

"In the state track meet they finished first and third, but those of us around here also know the fact that Logan Dixon is just as fast as those two," Harrell added. "It could have just as easily been Logan Dixon to win the 100 or 200 this year."

He noted Dixon, just a junior, finished third to McKinnie and Stephens in the 100 in the 3A-3 district meet, but the school is only allowed to take the top two to state. "To tell you the truth, Logan Dixon's time would have placed him in the top five at state in the 100," he added.

For their performances at Prescott, McKinnie, Stephens, Dixon, Goding and Lacey were all chosen as 3A All-State selections. They also earned a spot in last week's Meet of Champions, posting respectable showings against the best in the state from all classes. At the Meet of Champions McKinnie finished 10th in both the 100 and 200, while the relay team brought home an eighth place finish in the 4x100.

With graduation behind them, McKinnie will be off to ASU in the fall while Stephens will be a student, and football player, at Lyon College as they resurrect their program. And, the good news for Harrell is the fact the remaining All-State track Mohawks are underclassmen and there are talented others waiting for their chance.

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