Pictured Left to Right: Sam Polles. Kinsman Pace, Laurel Fulcher; Photos By Lonnie Kees

By Robert Wilson
Photo Credit Lonnie Kees

         Madison-Ridgeland Academy won its second straight MAIS Class 5A boys and girls state track and field championships Saturday at Jackson Academy.

         The Patriots boys and girls teams were so dominating they were competing against each other for the most points in the final events of the meet.

         MRA boys finished with 218 points, beating the girls by one point. The boys had 25 more points than second place Jackson Prep. The girls had 35.5 more points than second place Prep. Coach John Weaver led the boys to their fourth state title in the past six seasons. Coach Melanie Black led the girls to their third straight state title and won her 10th state track title in her career, five at George County High and one at McLaurin High.

         The MAIS did not have any champions last year due to COVID.

         MRA boys won nine of the 18 events. Senior Kinsman Pace was a triple individual winner, winning the 110 meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and 400. Sophomore Josh Hubbard won the long jump, senior Sam Polles triple jump, sophomore Harrison Alexander high jump, senior JP Wilke shot put and junior Hatcher Swanson pole vault. Pace and seniors Silas Smith and Phillip Hughes and sophomore Rivers Godwin combined to win the 1,600 relay and set a school record.

         “I learned from the best, former JA and Presbyterian Christian legendary track and field coach Joey Hawkins, that you need to have a great performance in the field events to win the state,” said Weaver, who finished his 10th season at MRA. “We placed first-second in the long jump, triple jump and high jump, 1-3 in the shot and 1-4 in the pole vault. That got us off to a great start going into the second day with the field events. We had peak performances on the day it matters most. It was a great weekend. We wanted to get as many guys on the stand and win medals as possible.

“Sam turned out the most points with 18 after the first day, winning the triple jump and coming in second in the long jump. It was so much fun watching him complete in the jumps. I’m so proud of him and his determination to fight through a quad injury. He is the true definition of a competitor, no matter the circumstance, Same got the job done for his team.”

“Nothing ever surprises me about Kinsman. He is the hardest worker on our track team. I’m so proud of him. What a way to go out as a senior. Kinsman is a special young man who has left a legacy worth following with MRA track and field.”

            MRA junior Kennedi Sanders, one of the top high school sprinters in the country, set MAIS records with wins in the 200 and 400 and also won the 100. Sanders’ times in the 200 and 400 are the fifth best times in the country. Senior Laurel Fulcher won the 300 hurdles, sophomore Evie Ewing long jump and sophomore Riley Hancock triple jump. Fulcher, Ewing and juniors Hunter Thompson and Lily Kate Farrar combined to win the 400 and 800 relays. Fulcher, who also finished second in the long jump and 100 hurdles, helped account for 46 points and gave her 22 state titles and seven team titles in cross country and track and field.

Kennedi Sanders; Photo by Lonnie Kees

“I think that this year’s championship was the sweetest because of losing our track season last year,” said Black, who finished her seventh season at MRA. “That was so heartbreaking, especially for our six seniors. The girls this year worked really hard and appreciated the opportunity to compete, something that they had taken for granted in the past. Most of them had not been on the track in two years since May 2019. This particular team is not only very talented, but also an extremely precious group of young ladies, who are poised and motivated to excel. It’s such a blessing to coach them. Although MRA may have been the favorite going into the meet, the girls still had to come ready to compete and they certainly rose to the occasion. We had 19 PR’s (personal records) for the meet in 16 of the 18 events so they definitely saved their best for the state meet. That’s a coach’s dream.

         “Laurel is probably the most talented and versatile female athlete to ever be at MRA. She is special, the total package. Laurel is a great distance runner, a great jumper and is super competitive. Best of all, she is also willing to put in the work to excel to reach her goals. Her highly decorated athletic career includes being selected all state in three sports, track, cross country and cheer and she plays basketball and soccer. Laurel currently has the best time in the entire state for the 300 meter hurdles, that’s for both public and private schools.”