LaGrange running strong

By Kevin Eckleberry

April 7, 2014

When it comes to distance running, few teams in the state do it better than the LaGrange Grangers.

Last spring, with Andrew Coggins winning a state championship and finishing second in another event, the Grangers were the runnerup in the Class AAAA state track and field meet.

During the fall, Coggins, Sam Bowie and Jonathan Pelham helped the Grangers finish second in the state cross-country meet.

Now, those three runners are the foundation of a LaGrange track team that is in the home stretch of its season.

The Grangers will compete in a meet in Columbus on Wednesday, and the Region 5-AAAA meet is next week.

The top finishers from the state meet will qualify for the state sectional.

The Grangers aren’t as accomplished in the speed events as they were a year ago when Demoton Boyd was winning a state title, but they’re still a team to be reckoned with largely because of the outstanding trio of Coggins, Bowie and Pelham.

“All of those guys are top guys in the state right now, top five or six,” LaGrange coach Davis Russell said.

Leading the way is Coggins, who won the 800-meter run at last year’s state meet while finishing second in the 1,600-meter run.

Bowie was fifth in the 3,200-meter run at state a year ago, and he was 10th in the 1,600.

Pelham didn’t place at state last year, but he has had an exceptional spring.

Pelham is specializing in the 3,200 this season, Coggins is once again focusing on the 800 and the 1,600, and Bowie’s main events are the 1,600 and the 3,200.

The distance runners are under the direction of Brad Wilson, who also coaches them in cross country.

“Coach Wilson, he’s amazing. He’s phenomenal. He’s a great distance coach,” Russell said. “He gets them to peak at the right time.”

Outside of the distance runners, Russell said there are a handful of competitors capable of making it through to state.

Russell said what makes it difficult is the strength of the region, which includes some of the state’s top programs, including Carrollton, which has won numerous state titles.

“Last week in the state standings, we were 10th, and we were fifth in the region,” Russell said.

Russell believes he has a pair of high-jumpers, Antonias Fanning and Tobias Spence, who could qualify for state.

The Grangers also have a pair of strong hurdlers, Mike Sneed and Jonathon Hayes.

Sneed has a time of 41.5 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles that is one of the state’s best.

“That puts him top 10 in the state, but it puts him top three or four in our region,” Russell said. “He’s a guy who will have a chance to get through.”

On the girls’ side, Sarah Bearden is also an accomplished distance runner, and she had a pair of top-five finishes at last year’s state meet.

Bearden was fourth in the 1,600, and she was also fourth in the 3,200.

“Sarah, she’s had a great year,” Russell said.

Another standout for the Lady Grangers is Denae Hill, who has excelled in the sprinting events.

Alicia Ward has had a strong season in the hurdles, and Russell believes the 400-meter relay team of Hill, Ward, Demia Mitchell and Jasmine Grissom could earn a state bid.

All of the runners took some time off for spring break last week, and they got together on Monday for practice.

Russell hopes the time off will everyone fresh and ready to go for the stretch run.

“We’re hoping that right here after spring break, their legs will explode a little bit,” Russell said.