With renovations underway at Skip Pope Stadium, each of Sequoyah’s spring athletic programs were forced to relocate for the season. With tracks in short supply, the Lady Chiefs were forced to travel down the road and practice alongside rival Creekview.
Little said the Creekview coaching staff and athletes were great hosts in sharing the facility, though the teams did not train together.
“Creekview was really good because they let us come any time,” Little said. “It was hard, because we had to get the freshmen over there on time, and it was a little disorganized. It took a while to get everyone there at the same time — seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen.”
Over the course of a typical season, Sequoyah has normally hosted three or four meets at Skip Pope Stadium, and the seniors would be recognized on the field at one point in the season.
None of that happened this year.
“The senior group got new uniforms and a senior dinner this year,” Little said. “That was about it.”
When they weren’t training at Creekview, Little said the Lady Chiefs made use of the grassy area and parking lot at Sequoyah to work out.
“We made our bus parking lot the track,” Little said. “The practice field was on the grass. That is where they practiced a majority of the time.”
Despite the obstacles, Sequoyah performed well at competitions, finishing sixth at the 11-team Region 7AAAAA meet and third at the county meet. The Lady Chiefs also sent two athletes to the Class AAAAA state championships.
For Sequoyah on a path of success, Little is the 2014 Cherokee Tribune Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“It was a shock,” Little said of the honor. “There are so many good coaches in the county.”
Little said she didn’t do the work alone, instead relying on assistant coaches and talented athletes to help her do the job. Among the athletes who stood out for Sequoyah were seniors Cara Wallace, Katrice Tolbert and Emily Geoghagan, junior Kennedy Williams, sophomore Alexa Johnson and freshman Aleah Johnson. It was the Johnson sisters who both qualified for the state meet.
Little said she was particularly impressed by the 400 relay team —Brooke Seabolt, Williams, Geoghagan and Tolbert — who won the county title with a time of 51.02 seconds. Tolbert was the only pure sprinter of the group.
“They worked well together,” Little said. “You may have a faster girl on the ‘B’ team, but it comes to how they click on handouts. (Seabolt) was a competition cheerleader and pole vaulter, and then another, Kennedy, was also a pole vaulter, and then Emily, a jumper.”
Next year will be different as some of the leaders — and key point-scorers — will have graduated.
“We will have to rely on the younger girls next year, like Jordenn Dorsey,” Little said. “We need to recruit some more girls to fill in the ranks.”
Little said Sequoyah has a strong middle-school feeder program and active youth club. As those athletes move up, the team will continue to improve.
“We have two coaches, who coach in the middle school, so we can recruit in that direction,” Little said. “That is our biggest thing. The youth track program is very good and our coaches are very good. The coaches love the kids and that is why they come out.”
One challenge for Sequoyah has been retaining athletes through four years of competition. Many students try out for track and field as freshmen or sophomores before focusing on other sports, or simply compete in track to stay in shape for their primary sport. By the time their senior season comes around, they are ready to drop track
“It’s like, ‘been there, done that,’” Little said. “Unless they really love it, they don’t stick it out for four years. Every once in a while, you will get a good senior group, like the one we had this year, or the one we had three or four years ago, where there are six or seven that were four-year lettermen, and we like those. There are very few track-only athletes.”
Little also hopes her team will be able to capitalize on competing at home next year. Work on the stadium is scheduled to be completed before the new school year begins, and Little said the track and field arrangement will be comparable to those at Creekview and River Ridge.
“The layout should be good,” Little said. “It should have everything. We wish we had two jumping pits, but we can’t be picky. At least we will have a track now.”