Family affair on LHS track team
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was a family affair in Albany.
On a Saturday afternoon at Hugh Mills Stadium in the Southwest Georgia city, LaGrange High’s girls’ 3,200-meter relay team strolled onto the track for the Class AAAA state finals.
Of the four members of the team, three were sisters, including twins Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney, as well as freshman Alyssa Rhaney.
The Rhaney sisters, along with junior Ivorie Smith, made up a team hopeful of putting together a strong performance and earn a place on the awards podium.
The team completed eight circuits around the track in a time of 10 minutes, 18 seconds, and that was fast enough for fifth place, which secured a spot on the podium, and each runner returned home with a medal in recognition of the accomplishment.
It was a special moment which took on added meaning because the sisters were able to do it together, and when the race was over, they shared the podium, giving the family a moment that no doubt will be treasured forever.
“Standing up there on the podium, being recognized for doing that, it was amazing for us all,” said Zamya Rhaney. “We were glad to be up there.”
Smith was thrilled to be on the podium as well, and she savored her first experience at state.
“It was fun,” Smith said. “It was my first time going because last year with the pandemic, and my ninth-grade year I didn’t make it to state. It just felt good to get to state, and it felt great to get on the podium.”
Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney, who are seniors, have been competing together at LaGrange High since they were freshmen, and they have enjoyed plenty of success in cross country, and track and field.
Beginning with cross-country season last fall, the twins welcomed their younger sister to the LaGrange High running family.
While they were never teammates before, Alyssa Rhaney also felt like she was a part of what her sisters accomplished.
“When they win something, it’s a win for me, too,” she said. “And they’ve always pushed me to try my hardest.”
While Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney were the top runners on the cross-country team, Alyssa Rhaney wasn’t far behind.
At the Region 2-AAAA meet, Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney finished first and second, respectively, and Alyssa Rhaney was fourth, while their future relay teammate Ivorie Smith was fifth.
At the state meet, the Rhaney sisters again had three of the team’s top four finishes, and Smith was fifth.
The sisters enjoyed similar success during track season, leading up to the memorable showing in the state finals.
“We were all really excited to run with her and train with her this season,” said Zamya Rhaney. “This is our last year, and it was her first year. She had people here that knew what they were doing to help her. It was just really fun.”
Zenay Rhaney said she has been “waiting for this year ever since I started doing track. I wanted us all to be on the team. Having her on the team just made us happy.”
While Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney excelled as they have throughout high school, Alyssa Rhaney settled in and had a fantastic season with her sisters pushing her every step of the way.
“As a group, they hold each other accountable,” said LaGrange coach Chontia Sheffield. “I didn’t have a sister. If I did have a sister, I’d want a sister like that. They didn’t let her slack. She’s the baby sister, but they did not allow her to slack. I love that about them.”
At the Region 2-AAAA track meet, Zenay Rhaney finished first in the 800-meter run, third in the 1,600-meter run, and she helped the 3,200-meter relay team finish first and the 1,600-meter relay team place second.
Zamya Rhaney, meanwhile, was second in the 1,600-meter
run and second in the 3,200-meter run, and she was on the two relay teams.
Alyssa Rhaney also made her presence felt at the region meet, not only helping the relay teams thrive, but also finishing third in the long jump, and sixth in the 400-meter run.
After a strong showing at the state sectional in Columbus, the season ended with the state finals in Albany.
The highlight for LaGrange was the impressive showing by the 3,200-meter relay team, and the 1,600-meter relay team also ran strong and was 10th in the state.
A key to success in the relay events is having a group of runners who get along and work well together, and LaGrange has those elements.
“(Chemistry is) very important,” Smith said. “You have to trust your teammates so you can pass the baton, and you have to be able to trust them. You’re running hard, and you have to trust them to run hard. You’re all trying to achieve the ultimate goal.”
Zenay Rhaney, Zamya Rhaney and Alyssa Rhaney also competed as individuals at state.
Zamya Rhaney was 10th in the 1,600-meter run and 11th in the 3,200-meter run, and Zenay Rhaney was 13th in the 1,600-meter run, and 10th in the 800-meter run.
Alyssa Rhaney competed in the triple jump and finished 13th.
“We were so excited,” Zenay Rhaney said. “I didn’t get to make it last year, so I was ready this year.”
Smith, making her first state appearance, enjoyed spending time with the top track athletes in the state and watching the way they went about their business.
“It’s inspiring to watch other athletes around,” White said. “It gives me a boost of energy. I can do that. I have the potential to do that.”
Alyssa Rhaney said “it was special” to compete at state.
“As a freshman, you just want to go out and try your best, and I feel like I put my best out there,” Rhaney said.
It was the final high-school event for Zenay Rhaney and Zamya Rhaney, who are both headed to Albany State to join the cross country and track teams.
Smith and Alyssa Rhaney will return for the 2021-2022 school year for cross country and track and field as they look for more success.
With her versatility, Alyssa Rhaney will no doubt be a key member of LaGrange’s track team for years to come.
“On the distance side, sprinter’s side, and the field events, she can do it all,” Sheffield said.