Relays hold key for Lady Bulldogs today in search of fourth straight crown

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

JACKSON &045; In this line of work, familiarity may not breed content.

For several weeks now the Natchez High Lady Bulldog relay teams have run against Vicksburg, Warren Central, Hattiesburg and others while keeping an eye on lowering their times and getting to the state meet.

So now they sit in the driver’s seat in all three relays, thanks to the pushing of those same clubs, heading into the Class 5A state meet today at Pearl. The Lady Bulldogs swept all three events last week at South State, and doing so today would really make a statement.

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And send the Lady Bulldogs home with a fourth straight state championship.

&uot;They told us Columbus is coming with their teams,&uot; said junior Taji Dorsey, a member of the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays. &uot;We feel we have to put out a lot of effort. The relays are going to put us in the lead. A lot of people will come with points in the field, and we’ve got to win it on the track.&uot;

Each team motored to wins last week and is sitting in good shape for a sweep today and a quick 30 points in the team scoring. The Lady Bulldogs used that meet last week to really tune up for today, and they could reap the benefits.

The 400 team of Tanieka Hill, Taji Dorsey, Candace Frye and Ke’Airra Jones finished in 48.93 seconds; the 800 team of Hill, Frye, Dorsey and Jones finished in 1:41.97 and the mile team of Porsha Singleton, Whitney Thomas, Jones and Dorsey motored in at 4:05.19.

&uot;The last two or three years most of the state meets come down to the mile relay,&uot; NHS head coach Larry Wesley said. &uot;With Columbus, it might come down to the mile relay. We scored 124 points (last week), but that doesn’t mean anything at the state meet. Everything is going to be close.&uot;

At this point it’s the unknown in Columbus that had the relay teams concerned most of week heading into the meet. That’s a team the Lady Bulldogs have yet to run against, but it’s the unknown that could push them to do more.

The Lady Bulldogs’ 800 relay owns the best time in the state regardless of class with the time they ran last week. But in the mile there’s Columbus owning the state’s best time at 4:04.45.

&uot;Columbus has been there,&uot; Wesley said. &uot;They’re bound to be there all the time. Columbus is going to be something for us to deal with. If my girls run a 4:07 (in the mile), their girls would run a 4:08 or 4:09. The (800) ran a 1:41, and they might have run a 1:42.&uot;

The relays have been fairly consistent for the Lady Bulldogs this season while Wesley tinkered with the lineup in each race earlier in the year. The mile relay team lost two key legs off last year’s state championship team in Lexi Washington and Janice Davis.

The big contributions have come from the two freshmen, Jones and Candace Frye, in the relays while Jones continues to make a splash in her first year of high school. Jones, who won the 400 last week in 57.16 seconds and the high jump at 5-8, has come through and showed you don’t have to be an experienced track star to really succeed.

&uot;Ke’Airra is a good sprinter and a good high-jumper,&uot; Hill said. &uot;I wish I had people like us to help me out when I was in ninth grade. But I’m happy they’re on our team.&uot;

Said Dorsey: &uot;They’re running great. Without them, the team wouldn’t be what they are. But it’s not the individual. It’s teamwork.&uot;

The two freshmen have been a pleasant addition to the relays and the team itself in the individual races. Frye flanks Hill in the hurdles and took second last week in the 100 while taking third in the 100 in 12.59 seconds.

Frye will also compete today in the 300 hurdles after she finished fourth last week.

&uot;The ones who have really stepped up for us have been Ke’Airra and Candace Frye,&uot; Wesley said. &uot;They stepped up big time. But if I’ve got to say one thing about one of them, I’ve got to say something about all of (girls). They’ve all stepped up in a big way.&uot;

Jones is sitting with one of the best times in the state in the 400 as well as in the high jump. Her time from last week is tops in Class 5A coming into today.

A standout athlete as a freshman who competed in the relays last year as an eighth-grader, Jones may just beginning to realize her potential.

&uot;She did real well last year,&uot; Wesley said of Jones. &uot;But I’ll be honest with you &045; she’s beginning to learn. I’ll have to bring her along real slow.&uot;