Polk County's Nathaniel Rhein

Hurdling the field: Polk boys win conference track and field title, Wolverine girls a narrow second

Polk County track and field coach Alan Peoples long felt his Wolverine boys squad were favorites to win Wednesday’s Mountain Foothills 7 Conference Championships.

But when Peoples sat down a few nights ago and calculated that Polk’s girls team would likely finish 20-plus points behind R-S Central in that competition, he turned to his coaching staff for a plan to reduce that gap.

The staff delivered. So almost did the Wolverine girls.

Polk County’s boys indeed waltzed to a championship, easily outdistancing the field in G.M. Tennant Stadium to win the school’s first Mountain Foothills title in any sport. The Wolverines finished 48 points ahead of runner-up R-S Central and 93 points ahead of third-place Brevard.

The Polk girls finished second, but only three points behind R-S. The close battle had coaches deep in calculations throughout the meet’s final hour, and though the Hilltoppers came out ahead, few in Polk blue and white were complaining.

“Amazing. The girls did just amazing,” Peoples said. “I sat down last week after the Rutherford County meet and figured we were 22 and a half points behind R-S.

“We found a way to make up 19 points. That’s a good day.”

Full 2022 Mountain Foothills 7 Conference Championships results | Photo gallery

There were outstanding efforts everywhere, none any better than that of Olivia Overholt. The senior was named the meet’s top female performer after winning the 800-meter run, anchoring the winning 4×400-meter relay team and taking fourth in the 1600 meters. Overholt also competed in the long jump for the first time this season and won it, with younger sister Sophia finishing second.

Polk’s Amya Cunningham dominated the fields in both the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles, easily winning both. Karsyn Huskey led a 1-2-3 Polk sweep in the 400 meters and joined with Mia Bradley, Tori Thompson and Lindsey Jenkins to win the 4×800-meter relay.

Polk County’s DeAsia Green and Kiera Littlejohn round the turn in the 200-meter dash

As good a day as Overholt had, Bryce Jergenson’s might have been better. The senior was named the meet’s top male runner after winning the 200-meter run, 400-meter run, anchoring the winning 4×400-meter relay squad and taking second in the 100 meters.

Polk’s 4×4 team stood in second place midway through that race, several seconds behind Brevard, until senior Braxton Edwards ran the leg of his life, not only catching Brevard’s third runner but passing him and opening a slight lead as the Tennant Stadium crowd roared. Jergenson then delivered another solid 400 meters to keep Polk in front at the finish.

Polk’s Nathaniel Rhein duplicated Cunningham’s feat and swept the hurdle races while Edwards won the pole vault and Kanye Staley won the discus.

“Everyone did what they were supposed to do,” Peoples said. “The coaches and I sat down, and the coaches did most of the work to put everyone in a spot where we could maximize our points.

“We knew it would come down to us and R-S Central. R-S and us ran into each other all season. I think we were at six meets together.”

R-S Central’s Ja’Quan Murray was named the top male field athlete, with Chase’s Darin Johnson earning the most valuable male award. R-S Central’s Joyasia Smith and Makenzie Searcy were chosen the top female track and field athletes, respectively.

Polk County will now turn its attention to the 2A West Regional set for May 13 at East Burke High School.

Peoples would take a similar effort there.

“We had a heck of a good day,” he said.