At Spring Valley on May 12, the Dreher High boys track and field team accomplished a feat the Blue Devils had not achieved in decades. The Blue Devils dominated the field in the Class 3A state finals, claiming the championship with a score of 88, 30 points above runner-up South Pointe.
The team’s victory highlighted the importance of teamwork, underscored the successes of outgoing sprint star Brandon Sanders and signaled a bright future for the Blue Devils’ program.
Hall of Fame coach Daniel Brooks spoke to The State about the long-awaited championship.
DComing into the season, did you feel like your team had the tools to win the state championship?
We thought we had the ingredients to be extremely tough this year, but then we felt that we had all the ingredients for the past few years but we lost some of it through injuries. And we actually thought we had more ingredients to work with than we ended up with, because we had some people that didn’t qualify where we thought they could.
What did you do differently to capitalize on your team’s potential this time around?
I don’t know that I ever had a team that did what we did this season. We ran eight dual meets and eight weekend invitationals and we didn’t win one of them. We just focused on team improvement and things we wanted to work on, whether it was strength or something we planned our meets to work on our goals. We would run the 4 by 800 relay with sprinters, we never got to chasing points and trying to win the meets. We also were definitely blessed to have them all stay healthy through the season.
At what point did you feel your team was ready to claim the state title?
We used spring break as a camp, not as a break. We did two-a-day practices then and we thought we made a lot of progress at that time and were in a very good position after that.
What was the most important aspect of preparing for the championship meet?
The week of the state meet, we had a great week of mental preparation. Everybody went in with the mindset of holding your own or stepping up.
WhichWho were some of the athletes that were able to do that for you this year?
Myron Chambliss, our shot-putter, wasn’t in the forefront or in the top of the state most of the year, but he continued to work hard and felt like he could contribute to the team. John Myers, a first-year track kid in the long jump, is one that really stepped up. A few weeks before the state meet, he was jumping 19 feet. A week before, he jumped 22 feet and he was able to contribute some points for us because he was one that really pulled it together in the end. And Brad(ford Lemmons), we saw that coming, in fact, we thought he would be one of the top sprinters in that state last year if it had not been for a late-season injury. This year, I felt like he would do what he did there.
Where did your team’s leadership come from?
Well, Brandon (Sanders) is not an extremely vocal leader but he set a great example and he was a very spiritual leader. He really inspired his teammates. And Nick Putnam is probably one of our hardest workers. He worked his way through a lot of adversity to be able to compete for us that day, and I’m very proud of him and his effort.
How did you feel going through the final meet with a strong lead over the competition, and then finally winning?
It was quite emotional. I knew that it was something we hadn’t done, basically since integration, since the 1960s. It was an opportunity to send Brandon out in grand style and the kids were excited to be able to do that for a guy who has meant so much to the program.
What did you learn through this season?
You learn not to necessarily focus on the winning. This year, winning wasn’t our focus during the year, it was a byproduct of our focus on working hard and improving ourselves. Winning is not the most important thing.
How do you feel about the future for the Blue Devils?
I think our future looks good. We’ve got enough people coming back to be able to do this again. Brandon Sanders and the seniors helped us set the tone for the future, and it made some excitement around the school and we keep asking kids if they want to be a part of that state championship fraternity.