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Orangeburg Prep Girl’s Win First A-AA Track Title Since the Early 1990’s Led By 17 State Meet Qualifiers,

Orangeburg Prep Girl’s Win First A-AA Track Title Since the Early 1990’s Led By 17 State Meet Qualifiers,

Palmetto Christian’s Charlee Olsen Wins Four Gold Medals To Earn HSSR-SCISA A-AA Girl's Track Athlete of the Year Honors  

By Billy G. Baker

Publisher

Charleston—Depth is always a good thing for any track team competing for a state title against quality competition, and Orangeburg Prep used 17 state qualifiers to build a composite score of 105 points to out-produce second place Thomas Sumter (84), to earn the schools first girl’s track title since the early 1990’s in the SCISA A-AA division.

Just two years ago, as a AAA team member, the Orangeburg Prep girl’s track team took a core group of hard- working middle schoolers to the state meet, and the team tied for dead last with 8 points. The team trusted the process, kept working hard, and two years later a combination of five seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, three freshmen, six 8th graders, seven 7th graders, and one very talented sixth grader (Mary Legare Delaney) proudly displayed a state championship trophy as the sun began to lower itself towards sunset on the track at Porter-Gaud.

It certainly helped that Orangeburg-Prep is now an AA SCISA member, but what head coach Brooks Smith and his assistant coaches have accomplished in two years, with this team, defines a team that embraced the process of development, focused on steady improvement, and when the moment came for the Lady Indians, they owned the moment, and enjoyed the fruits of their hard work on the medal stands reserved for state champions.    Shannon Forest placed third (79) followed by fourth place Palmetto Christian (77) and fifth place Spartanburg Christian (40).  

Other remaining A-AA teams in order included: Holy Trinity Classical (18), The Carolina Academy (14), Marlboro Academy (12), Charleston Collegiate (10), Spartanburg Day School (10), Calhoun Academy (10) Northside Christian Academy (1) and Williamsburg Academy (1).

Coach Smith, now concluding his 5th year with the O-P program, was beaming from ear-to-ear as his team was announced as state champions.  “It feels so great to finally win a state title in track because all our girls have worked very hard this year,” said Coach Smith. “We started the season with 32 girls and 17 of them, or just over half the team, qualified for the state meet. I am so proud of everyone and all of their contributions to the team.

“In terms our point producers in the state title meet today we had Anna Beth Evatt take first place in the Shot Put (29-09) and Discus (97-11) along with a second-place finish in the pole vault (7-00)),” said Coach Smith. “She is just a freshman so we feel like many more big moments are in her track future at Orangeburg Prep. Anna Beth was our top points producer with 28 points.

“Senior Abigail Thackston took first place in the triple jump (31-00.50) and a second place in the long jump (15-02.50) and she was an integral component of our 4X100 (55.87) and our 4X400 (4:37.02) relay teams that took two second place finishes,” said Coach Smith.  “Abigail is a senior and she will be solely missed.

Charlotte Laird is a senior and she took second in the shot (27-10) and third in the Discus (75-02.50). Sophomore Campbell Delaney was second in the triple jump (29-09), 4th in the 400 (1:07.39) and 5th in the 800 (2:43.09) while 8th grader Bari Cuttino was third in the long jump (14-08). “The field events were very strong for us today,” said Coach Smith.

The Lady Indians 4x100 relay team was comprised of Mary Legare Delaney (sixth grader), senior Madison Weeks, Thackston and sophomore Joni Marie Holstad. The 4X400 second place relay unit was made up of Thackston, senior Sidney Adicks, Holstad, and basketball prospect Campbell Delaney.

“Looking at things coming in today I thought if everything fell into place, we had a chance to come out on top so I would have to say that this team exceeded our expectations with their performances today,” said Coach Smith. “We are very proud of what our team accomplished today and we had a lot of our athletes finish higher than they were projected to. “

Of the 17 state qualifiers from OP only four are seniors. “We will have a good core group coming back for next year and hopefully our success will build even more participation and we are really excited for our future,” said Coach Smith. “A lot of our distance runners also run cross country in the fall. The majority of our other athletes are playing volleyball and basketball and staying active.

“We try to have a few open work-outs in the summer and we get everyone in the weight room, and we stress getting stronger and staying in shape,” said Coach Smith. “This helps them to get ready for whatever sport they choose to participate in during the fall and winter also.”    

        Coach Smith said that track is a good blend of a sport focused on the individual as well as the team. “I am a big team guy, so we talk every day about improving as individuals, but also how that improvement can benefit the team also,” he said. “Cheering on one another and pushing each other at practice and at a meet is very important. Our seniors have also done a good job at showing our newcomers how to compete day-in and day-out.”

Other gold medal winners in the A-AA competition included Cara Grace Phillips of Shannon Forest who produced 30 points for her team. Phillips placed first in the 3200 (12:12.91), first in the 1600 (5:36.18) and first in the 800 (2:31.17). Hannah Burnside of Thomas Sumter scored 24 points finishing second in the 3200 (12:22.80), and taking gold in the 400 (1:04.57) and she also participated on some relay teams.

Her TSA teammate, Reese Distelzweig scored 22 points on the strength of a third-place finish in the 800 (2:36.06), and her second-place finish in the 1600 (5:46.12). Molly Suttle was the top scorer for Spartanburg Christian with 22 points and Thackston was O-P’s second highest points producer with 22 points also.

Other Class A-AA top scorers were Reese Baker of Palmetto Christian (21), Ansley Karr of Shannon Forst (18), Campbell Delaney of O-P (16), and Jada Cunningham of Palmetto Christian (16) who won the 100 (13.37).  Erin Johns of South Aiken Baptist won the Javelin (81-06).  Congratulations are extended to Tessa Mudd of Charleston Collegiate who set a new SCISA state record in the pole vault with a clearance of 13-01.

The top points producer among the A-AA performers was junior Charlee Olsen from Palmetto Christian who won all four individual events she participated in for a perfect score of 40 points. Olsen won the 200 (28:20), the high jump (5-00), the 100-hurdles (17:32) and the 400 meters (1:09.88). The HSSR is proud to name Olsen the 2021 HSSR-SCISA A-AA Female Track Athlete of the Year.

Palmetto Christian head track coach Dale Hoover was especially proud of Olsen’s great effort at the state A-AA title meet. “Scoring 40 individual points at a track meet is a pretty rare feat,” said Coach Hoover. “I have witnessed many incredible sprinters and distance runners over the years but there are simply not enough similar events for those athletes to score 40. 

“Those who are strictly runners tend to run a relay as their 4th event and relay points get split four ways,” said Coach Hoover. “To get 40 points, a person has to be incredible at a couple of different disciplines, so they can compete in four4 individual events.  God has gifted Charlee with good speed, intelligence, coachability, and a natural jumping ability. 

“PCA has been blessed to have the High Points Female Athlete at each of the last six State Championships in Annie Pascutti, Lauren Pernell, and now Charlee.  They have all played Volleyball, Basketball, and each excelled in pretty much the same track events.

What does Coach Hoover feel might be in store for Olsen at the next level?  “Because of her all-around athleticism, I believe that Charlee has a great opportunity to be a "Multi" in college, competing in the Pentathlon/Heptathlon,” said Coach Hoover. “It is a pretty rare skill set, so colleges are looking for young women who can compete in all of those very different events.  I am extremely excited that Charlee is considering this path to compete in college track.  Her skill set is very similar to Lauren who is seeing good success as a Multi at Anderson University.  It is an added benefit that they are good friends and there is a mentor type relationship already in place.”

The HSSR asked Olsen who influenced her to get started in track and what her long-term goals might be with one more season in high school.  “Both of my parents ran track in high school, my dad being specifically successful throughout the years,” said Olsen. “At first, because of their experience and love for the sport, track was not optional for me and, as an 11, I dreaded every practice and every meet.  I said every year that I would never go out again... but there I was nevertheless, every year after that. 

         “Throughout my years as a multi-sport athlete, I have gained a special appreciation for track and field and my hope is to continue to pursue the sport in college.  I have always dreamed of being a college athlete, and track will hopefully give me the opportunity to do so, if that is the path God has for me.

         “My dad has always said that in everything you do, it's important to set goals for yourself,” said Olsen. “Going into this track season, I was unsure of my capabilities concerning the sport because of the loss of my sophomore season, due to Covid 19.  Nonetheless, I set the goal for myself to win the high point award at state.  To be honest, I did not think it was even remotely attainable, and to finally achieve that goal at the end of an amazing season was unbelievable.  I am so grateful for all of my coaches, teammates, and my parents for pushing me to my full capabilities.  I could not have done it without them behind me every step of the way.”

   


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