By Steve Williams

Knoxville Catholic started the 2015-16 school year with a state championship in cross country last fall. The Irishmen would like to end it with a Class A-AA title in outdoor track and field this week at the TSSAA Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.

After state qualifying was completed in the East sectional meet last Thursday at Christian Academy of Knoxville, Catholic head coach Sean O’Neil considered his team as one of the top four state contenders, along with Greeneville, Nashville Stratford and defending champion Nashville Pearl-Cohn.

Greeneville took first place in the East Sectional with 122½ points. The Greene Devils started the day with already having scored 24 points from a 1-2-3 finish in the decathlon.

Catholic, which was state runner-up last spring, tallied 88 points.

“The points will be a lot harder to score at the state,” said O’Neil.

Johnathan Chavez led the way for the Irishmen. He anchored the winning 4×800 relay team, which has won back-to-back state crowns, and won the 3200-meter run in 9:40.19, holding off a fast-finishing Gashaw Duhamel of Tennessee School for the Deaf.

In the 3200, Chavez led from start to finish.

“I’ve just found myself to be more comfortable out front,” he said. “It allows me to test my fitness and sometimes have an exciting race.”

Chavez, who has signed with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., also was second in the 1600 and ran on the 4×400 team, which placed third and hopes to get an at-large berth in the state.

Chavez was proud of the fact the 4×400 unit had a “PR” of 3:30.20 and that he set a personal record of 52.0 in his 400.

Chavez likes contributing to the team aspect of the sport.

“I’m making myself more comfortable to running four events,” he said. “We realize we have a chance at the state title.”

Catholic’s Jake Poczobut tallied 10 points by winning the high jump event, going over the bar at 6 feet, 2 inches.

Joining Chavez on the 4×800 team, which was clocked in 8:29.35, were Ethan Tornstrom, Jake Renfree and Georde Goodwyn.

Catholic’s Amari Rodgers and Alec Connolly also qualified for the state with second-place finishes in the 100 and 400, respectively.

Trailing Greeneville and Catholic in the boys’ top 10 scoring were Austin-East 75 points, Alcoa 67, Red Bank 45, Sullivan East 43, L&N STEM Academy 26, Carter 24, Grace Christian Academy 23 and CAK 21.

A young A-E team won the 4×200 in 1:30.83 and the 4×100 in 42.86 but was nipped at the finish line by Greeneville in the 4×400.

The Roadrunners’ 4×200 included all sophomores – Coby Colquitt, KaJuan Hale, Jahson Jackson and Martest Forbes. Colquitt also led off the 4×100, followed by Kashiff Warren, Gedarian Mobley and Hale.

Warren, a junior, also won the 200 in 21.97 and his brother Kivontae Warren, a freshman, won the 300 hurdles in 41.11.

Austin-East’s Christopher Stevenson, another freshman, made a second place showing in the 110 hurdles.

Bray Fulton of Carter took first place in the 800 in 2:00.49, edging Sullivan East standout Luke Meade. Fulton’s Zack Dobson bounced back to win the triple jump at 43-9.

Two-time state champion Rhett Elwood of GCA finished third in the discus event with a throw of 130-2.

On the girls’ side, Rebecca Story was the story. The CAK sophomore, one of the nation’s top prep distance runners, ran in four races and was a winner in all four, starting with the 4×800 relay, which she anchored.

Story won the 1600 in 5:01.05, the 800 in 2:17.75 and the 3200 in 11:06.

With Story leading the way, the Lady Warriors racked up 109 points, second only to Signal Mountain’s 126.

Running the first three legs on CAK’s 4×800 relay, which posted a time of 9:59.02, were Sarah Keller, Sarah Harb and Leah Orton.

CAK also won the 4×400 in 4:06.17 with Emily Threatt, Taylor Dodson, McKinley Blackburn and Lauren Estes carrying the baton.

Carter’s versatile Shelby Reynolds, who previously had qualified for the state pentathlon, also will be competing in the 300 hurdles and triple jump at the state as she came in second place in those two events at the sectional. She was fourth in the long jump.