April 30, 2013 10:53:32 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School girls track and field coach Caroline Woomer calls freshman Ralesheia Gee "a beast."
Woomer means it in the nicest way possible.
"She is the nicest, sweetest, cutest girls possible," Woomer said. "When it comes time to compete, she is a totally different person. She has worked hard since the very first day she came to the track program in seventh grade.
"In a meet, she is always pumped up and ready to go. She is a great team leader."
On Saturday in Canton, Gee won the Class 5A, Region 2 championship in the long jump. She also qualified for North State Class 5A competition in the 100 and 200 meters.
On the boys side, senior Alan Nichols highlighted the Yellow Jackets' afternoon with a region championship in the high jump.
For their efforts, Gee and Nichols are The Dispatch's Prep Players of the Week.
"I really went into the (meet) with some high expectations," Nichols said. "I thought I exceeded them in the high jump. I was also on the 4x200 relay team, but we didn't quality. The high jumped worked out great. To have a new best mark was very gratifying."
Nichols' mark of 6 feet, 4 inches reflects how far he has come in his two years with the program.
"I wasn't really any good when I first started doing the high jump last season," Nichols said. "The coaches really push us very hard. I have never been the type of person to give up on something. I just decided I was going to keep working at it until I got good at it. That hard work is paying off now."
Gee's performance also exceeded her expectations. She competed in four events and qualified for North State with a top-four finish in three. She also won a region championship with a long jump of 16-10.
"Saturday was a great day for me because I qualified in almost everything," Gee said. "I came in with high expectations and left with a great victory. I come hard every day in practice, working to get better. On the days of the competition, I try to give it my best. I think my attitude and composure helps me compete."
Woomer said Gee's work ethic helped her earn a spot on the team. After her seventh-grade year, she was invited to run varsity. Woomer calls Gee "her fastest runner" and "best jumper", and said she combines that with "an incredible work ethic to succeed."
"My favorite even is the 100 because it is real quick and it is the easiest," Gee said. "The long jump is fun because I like flying through the air. I have done the high jump for two years, but decided to start doing the long jump this year and really liked it from the first time I gave it a try.
"I thought I could really do more to help my team if I put my mind to it."
Several other Starkville girls will compete in the North State meet, which is Saturday on the campus of the University of Mississippi. Kate and Walker Mattox will run in the 1,600 and 3,200, senior Mary Elizabeth Stringer will compete in the 800, Daija Williams will compete in the 100 hurdles in her first season in the event, Emily Woomer will compete in the 400, and the 4x400 relay team of Woomer, Taylor Rogers, Williams, and Aleah Watt will compete.
"The team is amazing," Gee said. "I love coming to practice every day. This team has the biggest heart. It is just amazing. We all get along. We are like brothers and sisters. We do a great job of pushing one another."
On the boys side, Starkville coach Steve Griffin also expects a big finish for his squad, which also will compete Saturday at Ole Miss.
"We are excited," Griffin said. "Some of our hardest workers have advanced . We might be hard-pressed to win the team title because of the number of events we will compete in. However, we expect to have some outstanding individual finishes."
Charlie Henderson and Grant Woomer will compete in the pole vault. Gabe Myles, Tommy Stinson, Qu Robertson, and David Hill will compete in the 4x100 relay. Hill also will compete in the long jump and triple jump. Damian Grady and Ethan Musser will compete in the mile. Grady also will run the 800, while Nichols will compete in the high jump.
"Since this is my senior year, I really want to go out on a strong note," Nichols said.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter