Highlands Middle School track team wraps up shortened season

The pandemic may have caused an abbreviated track season this year, but that didn’t sway Highlands middle-schoolers from joining up and giving it their all.

“I was really impressed with the effort the athletes put in this year,” said Highlands Coach Blakely Moore. “They were constantly asking me to stay late so that they could practice more. One day, when I was out sick, the athletes went to the track on their own and practiced without any prompting. I hope they maintain this enthusiasm and passion for the sport going forward. It will take them so far!”

Highlands Charlotte Westendorf checks out her landing during the long jump.

Last year’s track season was cancelled because of COVID-19, and this year schools were allowed an abbreviated season. Moore said the lack of experience from last year’s cancelled season was a factor, but the athletes stepped up and did their best.

“Everything was new for everyone,” said Moore. “Thankfully, all the athletes were open to trying new running and field events. As a result, we were able to compete in almost all the categories. I really admire the athletes who jumped into events like hurdles, throws, long jump, and high jump. Our athletes have more experience in running events because of the cross-country season in the fall, but they have put a lot of effort into their skills for field events.”

From left are Highlands Lillian Rutter and Alejandra Valerio racing at Rabun Gap.

Highlands began the season on April 20 at Rabun Gap and Moore said for the first meet, the athletes did a great job.

“Shoutout to Courtney Logan for winning the 400m, Jim de la Cruz for winning the 200m and 400m, Claire Worely for winning the 800m and 300m hurdles, and Timmy McDowell for winning the 800m and the 1600m,” said Moore. “And to the whole team for being willing to compete in so many events to make up for our small size, which really hurts us in overall points.”

Highlands Blaine Dendy competes in the high jump at Rabun Gap.

Moore added that in track, unlike cross country, the highest score wins. The top placers in each event score and earn points for the overall-team score. Therefore, the quality and quantity of athletes are both important. She said given the size of Highlands School, she and Coach Derek Taylor felt the athletes performed admirably.

“Derek and I were proud of the athletes,” said Moore. “They ran well and placed high in their events. Several of them had PRs (personal records) as well. But as usual, Highlands couldn’t compete when it came to team scores. We just don’t have the depth on our team.”

Birdie Sherwood lands in the sand during the long jump event.

Moore added that next year’s team is looking strong.

“This year, soccer and track were at the same time because of the COVID sports schedule,” she said. “Next year, soccer will be in the fall and track will be in the spring. Without this conflict, I think our participation will be much higher. Thankfully, we don’t lose any athletes this year and most of them will be in 8th grade. So, we will have an older, more experienced team.”

Highlands Coach Derek Taylor cheers on Timmy McDowell at Rabun Gap in April.

Highlands Claire Worley runs the anchor leg of a relay race.

Highlands Jim De La Cruz closes in on the finish line at Rabun Gap.

Highlands Margaret Cole competes in the shot put.

Highlands Stephen Pierson is feeling pretty good towards the end of the race.

Highlands Nicole Taylor takes off during the relay.

Lilian Rutter launches the discus at Rabun Gap.

Highlands Courtney Logan sprints to the finish line at Rabin Gap.

Highlands Aiden Dendy competes in the discus event at the first meet of the season.

Highlands Timmy McDowell leads the pack during a race at Rabun Gap.

From left are Highlands Margaret Cole and Alejandra Valerio competing in hurdles.

From left are Highlands Jim De La Cruz and Courtney Logan.


From left are Highlands Nicole Taylor, Claire Worley and Birdie Sherwood at a track meet at Rabun Gap.

Highlands Charlotte Westendorf’s face says it all after a starting gun malfunction.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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High Jump

Long Jump

Discus & Shot Put

Bunch of Races

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