High School Sports

Yellow Jackets make the most of their opportunity

It is not often that a track coach gets to sit in the stands and watch his team put on a perfect meet.

But that is what Irmo coach Mike Moore was treated to on May 10, as he watched six members of his boys track team compete in the Class 4A state meet at Spring Valley.

“All the boys that we took to that meet came home with a medal,” said Moore, whose team finished fourth. “You don’t usually go to the state meet and have no bad experiences. The only thing that would have been more perfect was if we had won.”

The Yellow Jackets’ small contingent mustered 36 points by medalling in each of the five events for which they qualified.

Junior Rashad Mallett was the only Yellow Jacket to win gold that Saturday.

Mallett was the No. 1 seed in the 110-meter hurdles, and finished in 14.79 seconds to take first place. He won bronze in 400-meter hurdles; his time of 55.29 is an Irmo record.

“He did all the things he needed to do in the season to win and get there and it came out for him,” Moore said. “And even though he didn’t win the 400, he is still the best hurdler ever from Irmo and we’re excited about that, too.”

There was plenty to be excited about as the Yellow Jackets kept stacking up medals.

“We came here knowing that, as a team we could not win the meet, but we all wanted to get first place finishes,” said Perrie Keeve, one of two Irmo seniors at the state meet. Keeve had been seeded fifth in the 400, but with a 49.12-second finish, picked up bronze.

Keeve, who had struggled with various leg injuries, was a bit disappointed, but Moore was not.

“He would really have preferred to be No. 1 but he ran a great race,” Moore said.

“It’s hard with him, to be able to train him the way his competitors train because of his legs, but still he was able to run through the pain and do very well.”

Moore could not help but notice the best in his athletes’ performances. Junior Adrian McGee won the silver medal with a time of 1:57.17 in the 800.

McGee knocked nearly three seconds off his qualifying time to challenge the top seed, North Augusta’s Marcus Thurmond, who he had raced several times during the season.

“You really can’t describe all the emotions you feel when an athlete performs that way. ... That was a close race even down to the last 10 meters, and that guy had to run the race of his life to beat Adrian,” the coach said.

McGee also ran the first leg of the Yellow Jackets’ two-mile relay, which finished third. The squad, which included Andy Roof, Jack Lewis and was anchored by senior Nick Bodnar, had been seeded fifth.

“Those boys had the right attitude going in. They went to run for first place and that’s what they did,” Moore said. “Every one of them ran the best race they could run.”

Though the Yellow Jackets had hoped to have a bit more participation in the state meet — the 400 relay squad did not qualify — Moore was more than pleased with the final outcome.

Moore’s athletes were quick to look for more.

“That’s the first thing that comes out of their mouths, is who’s coming back next year and what they’re going to do,” Moore said.

Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.