Start your engines: LaGrange High Greenpower enjoys successful first race as a program

Published 8:30 am Saturday, December 16, 2023

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Showtime. For the very first time in school history, the LaGrange High Greenpower team put the pedal to the metal last Saturday. It was a day full of anxiousness, new beginnings and ultimately, a successful event for the fledgling team.

“To finish fourth in our first race felt really good,” John Radcliffe said. “To go from starting in 12th place to finishing in fourth gives us a lot to be proud of.”

After weeks of preparation, chemistry building and practice, the Grangers got a chance to show their mettle at the Santa Sprints in Columbus last Saturday. To actually participate in a race was as exhilarating as they had hoped.

The natural, free-flowing chemistry the team shares now was not exactly present when the team first congregated around their car kit for the first time. 

“Most of us didn’t really know each other when we first got here,”  Nyima Martin said. “I knew Kinsley (Freeland), but most of us just saw each other around but didn’t really know each other.”

A natural chemistry and order between the team slowly began to reveal itself. The team assembled the car but got very few instances where drivers were in the car. That changed on Saturday when the drivers were thrown in the fire. 

“I only drove it once and that was around the middle school parking lot,” Freeland said. 

While some were steadily going around the track, Freeland was all gas and no breaks.

“She is a speed demon,”  coach Michael Evans said. “She was averaging one minute 30 seconds a lap last Saturday and the leader was averaging a minute 20 (seconds) So she was she pushing those lap leaders.”

On race day, Freeland was brimming with confidence and proved to be a real leader/supporter for the team.

“She basically spent the whole day hyping the team up,” Tiyonna King said as the team shared a laugh. 

Despite the day being an overall success, the team had to make adjustments on the fly. One such adjustment might have been the key difference between what was ultimately a successful day into one where they could have been left with questions of what if.

“We started with too much tire pressure in the car and it caused our first drive to spin out,” Radcliffe said. “We didn’t know what the problem was at first, but we were able to figure it out. We let out some of the air to increase the surface area of the tire and cause more friction.”

Some of the individuals on the team had prior experience with the Greenpower team at Gardner Newman, but for most, this was their first real experience with Greenpower. Many came with preconceived ideas of what role they wanted on the team but quickly became interested in something else.

“Honestly, I wanted to be pit crew, but when I tried out that camera that was an experience to never forget,” King said. “I love using the camera.”

It is a young core of students who are part of the inaugural team at LaGrange High. Evans believes this will give his team a chance to really build a strong program over the next couple of years.

The foundation is being laid right now for the future, but the team is laser-focused on the present so that they can compete at the national championship at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring.

“Just thinking about the race gets me excited,” Bo Mormon said.

The next time the Grangers will hit the tarmac is on March 16 in LaFayette, Alabama. This will give the team plenty of time to practice in the car, work on some kinks and so much more.

The inaugural LaGrange High team consists of Kendall Murray, John Radcliffe, Stiles McLeod, Kinsley Freeland, Bo Mormon, Ezra Johnson, Frank Wood, Bronson Cooper, Tiyonna King, Nyima Martin, Messiah Cofield and Yerim Kim as well as coaches Micheal Evans and Justin Betts.