May 1, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Spring football practice started this week at Starkville High School, but Billy Shed isn''t ready to take that field just yet.
As the football team worked out on a nearby field, Shed and fellow members of Starkville''s 4x400-meter relay team were preparing on the track for Saturday''s Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State meet at Madison Central High School.
Shed will be a returning safety for coach Bill Lee this fall, but right now track and field is a priority.
"I miss (football) a little bit because I enjoyed my time playing football," Shed said. "I''ve got some things to take care of here."
Lee, also Starkville High''s athletic director, understands you remain with the sport until the season concludes.
Although he''d like to have Shed for the entire spring, Lee is willing to wait his turn.
"He''s a super athlete," Lee said. "I can''t wait to get him out because he makes a difference in our secondary."
Starkville track coach Cleveland Hudson, who works with the defensive line on Lee''s staff, said Shed brings a football mentality to the track.
"It helps with his competitiveness and toughness," Hudson said. "He doesn''t like to lose."
Shed enjoys running with Tavaris Tate, Quartez Rogers, and Troy Taylor on the 4x400 relay.
He believes some of the things he''s learned playing football benefit him in track.
"The conditioning and running helps," Shed said. "I just keep on running, make sure I do the right things, and eat healthy."
Being around an outstanding sprinter like Tate, who will sign a national letter of intent today to compete at Mississippi State, motivates Shed to be the best he can be on the track. He respects the way Tate prepares for meets.
Along with the relay team, Tate qualified for the North State meet in the 100, 200, and 400, Rogers participates in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200, Kelsy Thomas runs the 100 and 400, and Josh Henley throws the shot put and discus.
The Yellow Jackets have finished second to Tupelo the past two weeks at the Region 2 and Division 2 meets.
Hudson believes his team is closing in on Tupelo, but he knows there will be more talented teams in the running at the North State meet.
"We''ve got Madison Central that''s strong, while Greenville (Weston) and Grenada are always going to be real competitive," Hudson said. "I think we can put the numbers up in our favor.
"We''re still getting good quality points. Hopefully when we get to the state, some of those points where Tupelo has been beating us and the points Meridian has been getting will balance out. We look for our quality points to come out on top."
The Lady Yellow Jackets will try to improve on their third-place showing at the Region 2 meet.
Starkville girls coach Mitchell Evans said some of his runners weren''t ready for a meet that was run less than four hours.
"(Despite the conditions), I felt they did well," Evans said.
The Lady Yellow Jackets had 10 girls qualify for the North State meet.
Shay Bonner, another two-sport athlete who also played basketball, runs the 100 and 300 hurdles and joins Consuela Fason, Cynequa Steela, and Verlyncia Leonardo on the 4x200 relay team.
Bonner wants to provide the team as many points as she can in her events so it can place as high as possible.
"I''ve been spending hours with Tavaris during the summer, and that helped me a lot because I was the only girl working with all the boys," Bonner said. "It was very hard."
Other Starkville girls who will compete in the North Half meet are: Leah Hampton (300 hurdles), Asche Catledge (100, 200), Bailey Clark (800), Mary Elizabeth Stringer (3,200), Steela (400), and Catledge, Leonardo, Resheauca Henderson, and Chelsea Lowry in the 4x400 relay.
Mitchell believes all of the times have been close enough in the North Half to make it interesting.
"I really feel like it''s going to be a test for us because we never really had an opportunity to run against other regions," Mitchell said. "We ran against Greenville Weston, and I''m looking for them to really be the team to beat in 5A."