Coaches: David Seawright, head coach; Jennifer Fancher, distance; Matthew Gerbig, shot put; Jim Yike, discus; Zach Howard, sprints; Kevin Johnson, pole vault and jumps.
Returning starters, other key athletes: Senior Tauheed Ferguson, a member of the school-record 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams and the AHS record holder in the 300-meter hurdles, returns after a hip injury derailed his senior football season. Seawright described him as a program leader. Senior Charlie Hych is a multi-talented athlete who will compete in hurdles, sprints, high jump and relays. Junior 200-meter and 400-meter runner Edwin Ellis will also be part of the 4x400-meter relay. Brothers Austin (junior) and Luke (sophomore) Sigman will lead the distance runners, while Seawright said sophomore Mason Griffiths has been a pleasant surprise in the discus along with the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. Sophomore pole vaulter Sam Massei returns for his second season.
Strengths and areas most in need of improvement: Graduation hit the team hard after an abbreviated 2020 season with the loss of several key seniors, including runner Kevin Haley (now at Western Carolina). “One area we must improve in is leadership among this young group,” Seawright said. “We have to learn how to practice at a high level as a boys’ program. Our numbers are similar to our girls’ program, with 47 members competing on the boys’ team. The strength of our team will be determined when we get on the track and have some meets.” Seawright said the distance group is larger as Fancher as encouraged more cross-country runners to participate. He said that Griffiths has looked promising at discus in the early going and Jacob McClusky is showing potential, while Tyler Ferro leads a young group of shot putters. Seawright said Massei has put in good work at pole vault, while jumpers Devon White and Thomas Ouma are showing potential. Seawright, who focuses on hurdles and high jump, said Hych is a key leader in both events, while Marcus Streeter is showing progress in the high jump.
Region outlook: Seawright: “The boys’ team has a lot of work to do with the graduation of many four-year lettermen from the class of 2020. Our staff realizes that we must build depth within our boys’ program this season. The new region (GHSA 8-AAAAA) is difficult to predict, especially with all the talented programs. Like every year, our goal is to win the region championship.”
Coaches: Same as boys. Seawright: “Our coaching staff does a great job with our athletes and we are fortunate to have such a dedicated staff for track and field. To be able to work with most of this group for years has been critical for the improvement of our program. The ability for us to specialize is extremely important, especially with the loss of the 2020 season. Our coaches do a great job of preparing workouts daily, mentoring our athletes, and preparing them for meets. We are excited about hosting the 2021 Region 8-AAAAA meet at Apalachee, as well as the large number of home meets this season.”
Returning starters, other key athletes: Senior 400-meter runner and high jumper Maya Mason returns as a 2019 state qualifier in the high jump and is a key team leader. Junior Janiya Daniel is a multi-talented athlete who participates in hurdles, sprints and jumps, while junior Aleycia Brown is a key returning sprinter and the lone returning long jumper on the team. Neely Rogan is a talented freshman thrower, while junior pole vaulter Molly St. Clair is back for her third year with the program. Sophomore Averie Akin, a three-sport athlete at AHS, will take part in the 800-meter run and triple jump, and senior Dayshabelle Bello is back with the program after spending her sophomore season in Florida. She was a member of the girls’ region championship team in 2018, when she ran the 800-meter run.
Strengths and areas most in need of improvement: With more than 20 new members on the team, Seawright and his staff are working to build depth within the program and will try several athletes in different areas. “Our coaching staff is very pleased with our numbers this season (over 45),” he said. “Like everyone, there is some catching up to do with the cancelation of the 2020 season. The work ethic and attitude of our girls’ team has been fantastic in 2021. With only four seniors on the roster, the team is very young and inexperienced.” Katie Harper and Hailey Tedder lead a larger distance group, while Rogan and junior Sam Hauff will lead the throwers. St. Clair leads a group of 4-5 vaulters. Anijah Hill is emerging out of the sprinters group, along with Mason and Janiya Daniel, while Jasmyne Daniel has also shown improvement, according to her coach. Mason is looking to make it back to state in high jump, while Janiya Daniel will be helping lead the hurdlers and high jumpers.
Region outlook: Seawright: “There is a lot of talent in Region 8-AAAAA. We want to focus on putting our athletes in the best position to be successful. If we work hard and improve, we feel like we can finish in the top half of the region. We are going to have to build depth and have some young athletes step up if we are going to compete for a region title. As always, our goal is to win a region championship.”