DHS Lady Falcons Track team makes history

By Coach Rich Wideman

On May 16th, the Lady Falcons Track team made history with its best finish in school history. The ladies finished tied for second place with Wren High School in the SCHSL 3A State Championship Meet.

The Lady Falcons got off to a fast start with a State Champion run from the 4×100 Meter Relay team of Mikela Salone, Karissa Lunn, Samone Green, and Angel Gale. The win was a very special one for Lunn and Gale as they were both a part of 4×100 teams, which finished in 2nd place the last two years.

On podium L-R: Mikela Salone, Heidi McNeil, Adrian Smith, Angel Gale, Karissa Lunn, Samone Green.  In front of podium: Coach Tony Heilbronn, Coach Christina Kivi, Coach Rich Wideman Photo courtesy of SCRunners.

On podium L-R: Mikela Salone, Heidi McNeil, Adrian Smith, Angel Gale, Karissa Lunn, Samone Green.
In front of podium: Coach Tony Heilbronn, Coach Christina Kivi, Coach Rich Wideman
Photo courtesy of SCRunners.

“It has been our goal to bring home the gold in the 4×100 all season,” Gale added. “To be second two years in a row, we just had to go out on top.”

I was very nervous during warm ups as one of our girls was having trouble with her handoff. Once the race got started we were once again nervous, fearing we were disqualified after the first exchange when a yellow flag went up. Our 2nd and 3rd handoffs were better than expected and we crossed the line in first. Fortunately, we soon received news that it was the team in the lane next to us that got disqualified. We are so proud of these young ladies. They are my first State Champions as the Head Coach at Darlington.

Not very long after the 4×100 received their medals, we were able to watch Kadasia Evans, an 8th grader, clear 5’4 in the high jump to secure our second state champion of the day. For Kadasia this was redemption from last year at state when she did not even clear opening height. Coach Tony Heilbronn, hurdle and high jump coach, has been working with Kadasia all season. He gets a lot of the credit for working on her form, but he also was able to develop the thing she lacked last year, confidence. Heilbronn added, “We knew she could clear the necessary heights to win, we just had to get her in the right frame of mind to do it on the big stage.”

The next lady to make her way to the podium as Karissa Lunn with a third place finish in the 100 Meter Dash. Her time of 12.21 was also good enough for Karissa to earn All-State Honors and the National Elite Silver Standard. This season ended up being a coming out party for Lunn, who emerged as one of the top female sprinters in the state. Lunn also emerged as the leader of our team buying into the new coaching philosophy early. She never complained, she never argued, and she was always willing to try new things. For a team with a lot of new runners, she became the glue that held them together. Lunn entered the season as an average sprinter and finished with a Division scholarship from Coastal Carolina, a program that she was planning on being a walk on. Her leadership is what made our team so successful this season. Without her buying in early, I am not sure we would have been as good as we were.

Heidi McNeil ended her very decorated career at Darlington with a 3rd place finish in the 800 Meter Run. McNeil’s effort was also good enough to once again break her own school record in the 800 and earn All-State Honors. Heidi leaves Darlington holding school records in the 800 M, 1600 M, 3200 M, 5K, and is a member of several record setting relays. We are so proud of the way Heidi has finished her career here at DHS, she has had to overcome several things including a bad knee injury her Junior year to get where she is today. She has not run at the State Track Meet since her 9th grade year when she finished 5th in the 1600 M Run. Heidi has set standards and has been a huge role model for future Falcons. She is one of the hardest working athletes I have had the pleasure to coach over. Heidi will continue her running career next fall at Spartanburg Methodist and will be an asset to their program as well.

With a throw of 36’1”, Adrian Smith was able to secure a 4th place finish and key team points for the Falcons. Adrian is Darlington’s best shot putter since Marie Sweet won a State title for Darlington in 2004 with a throw of 39’. Coach Daniel Dieudonne, throws and jumps coach, has been focusing on strength and technique with Adrian this season hoping to improve upon her 8th place finish last season. All the hard work paid off big. Dieudonne commented, “Adrian is very coachable and works hard everyday. You never have to ask her to get to work!”

In the 200 Meter Dash, Angel Gale, who barely qualified for state, finished in 6th and provided 3 team points that put the team in contention for the runner up trophy. We almost scratched Angel in the 200 with the hope that she would qualify in the 400 Hurdles. When she barely missed qualifying in the 400 Hurdles, we decided to go ahead and have her run the 200. This decision ended up being a pivotal one. If Angel doesn’t run the 200, we don’t get to bring home a trophy. Angel has been one of the most consistent runners over the last couple years. She is a hard worker and has been willing to try other events in an effort to help the team. Her contributions to the program are priceless. She is a very strong runner and will continue her running career at Coker College next year.

In the final race of the day, the ladies 4×400 team of Heidi McNeil, Samone Green, Kadasia Evans, and Angel Gale finished in 6th place giving us 3 more points. The girls ran fast enough to set a new school record too.

At the conclusion of the race, we knew we had 43 team points, but had no idea what any other team had. As we were packing up and cleaning our team area up, Blair Warren, a Darlington High Alumni who works for the SCHSL waved me down to the bottom of the bleachers. Upon reaching her, she says, “You know you guys finished tied for 2nd.” I just looked at her. She then said, “you might want to get your team back together, they are going to get a trophy.” We started getting the team back together but did not tell them why. Soon after, the announcer called out the results and announced us as tied for 2nd place. This result was more than we expected. Going in to the season, we had no idea it would end this way. In the middle of the season we, the coaches, talked about a top ten, maybe a top 5 finish. Our girls really came together and performed to the best of their ability on the biggest stage of the season. Seeing the girls with the Runner-Up trophy smiling on the podium will be something I will never forget. We are so proud of them.

On the boys side, we had three young men qualify and compete very well. Jonathan Segres, a Junior, in his first season of track, competed in the High Jump, taking 4th place with a jump of 5’4”. Zack White, also a junior competed in the 800 Meter Run. Zack finished the two lap race in a time of 1:59.33, setting a new school record, and finishing in 4th place. Jonathan and Zack both earned All-State Honors with their efforts. Traquan Dubose closed out his high school track career with an 8th place finish in the 110 Meter Hurdles.

This has been an amazing season for the Falcon Track Teams. We achieved much more than we expected. This season wouldn’t have happened without the help of so many. I am thankful for my assistant coaches, Heilbronn, Dieudonne, and Christina Kivi for all their hard work. I am also thankful that Dr. Harrison and Coach Phil Jones trusted me enough to give me the opportunity to lead this program. They have both been very supportive of everything we are doing. We also wouldn’t be here without the parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends who supported us throughout the season.

Author: Duane Childers

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