May 7, 2013 10:37:10 PM
The weather wasn't conducive to championship performances this past weekend at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Overall State meet.
But the rain and the slippery surfaces made the final performances of the season even sweeter for Parker Dunaway and Mary Douglass Kerby.
Dunaway closed his Heritage Academy track and field career by winning the Class AAA boys triple jump (42 feet, 3 3/4 inches) and finishing second in the long jump (20-8 1/2), while schoolmate Kerby won the Class AAA girls shot put (32-3 3/4) and was sixth in the triple jump (32-9).
It was a gratifying way for Dunaway, a senior, to go out after being a part of the school's Class AAA, Division II state championship football team in the fall.
"Distances and all that stuff weren't the best for anybody jumping, so we all had to work with what we were given," Dunaway said. "I felt good jumping, but when they would read the distance out it wouldn't be what I was expecting, but it was good for the conditions."
Dunaway finished second to Magnolia Heights' Kevin Barber in the long jump (20-9 1/4). Despite the conditions, Dunaway closed the gap between him and Barber from the Class AAA North State meet, where he took second with a mark of 19-9. Dunaway also won the triple jump (41-4) at the Class AAA meet.
Dunaway will complete his athletic career at Heritage Academy by teaming with classmate James Clark in the MAIS All-Star baseball game. He said he will miss competing in track and field later this year when he is at the University of Alabama beginning studies in business or another major.
Even though he admits he would kind of like to continue to compete in track and field, a sport he has competed in since seventh grade, Dunaway feels the time is right to turn his focus toward academics and the next part of his life.
For one last time, though, Dunaway showed he is one of the state's best athletes.
"It was definitely satisfying to end my high school athletics with a win, like I finished my high school football with a win," Dunaway said. "You want to go out on a good note, and that was a good note to go out on."
At the 2011 Overall State meet, Dunaway won the triple jump with a mark of 43-11 1/4. He also took fifth in the long jump (20-5 1/2). Last year, injuries hampered his preparation and he was fourth in the long jump (21-1 3/4) and seventh in the triple jump (40-0) at the final meet of the season.
"I wanted to go out there and win," Dunaway said. "Winning it two times, I don't think that was really on my mind. Once I thought about it afterward, I thought that was pretty cool. That wasn't on my mind. I just wanted to get out there and do my best and, hopefully, win."
Kerby, a junior, also is a member of the school's volleyball and basketball team. She also used to play softball for the Lady Patriots. In track and field, she has competed in the discus and in the 400 meters. This season, she concentrated on the triple jump and the shot put. Her reasoning was simple. Jackson Academy's Dasha Tsema, who set a MAIS record with a winning throw of 39 feet, 10 3/4 inches last season, graduated, leaving an opening for a new state champion.
Still, Kerby admitted she didn't have a lot of time to train for the shot put. Heritage Academy has a shot put circle, but she said there was steel on the ground in front of the circle that she had to throw over.
Kerby also made up for a lack of size by using her versatility to compensate for the fact she was one of the smallest competitors in the Class AAA girls shot put field.
"I have been doing track since I was in seventh grade," Kerby said. "In seventh and in eighth grade, I was kind of put into different events to see where was I good. Throughout the years, I was thrown into different things. Triple jump, I just randomly started doing it one meet and thought I could try it. Shot put just developed over time. The athleticism definitely helps because I am the smallest one out there, but is about speed and quickness and muscle and it is not all about how tall and big you are."
That athleticism also serves Kerby well on the volleyball and basketball teams. Last fall, she played on the volleyball team for the first and used her aggressiveness and quickness best at the net to challenge hitters.
This season, she did a lot of work on her own and relied on weight training to prepare her for a run at a title. She felt confident she could fare well, but she said she only went to one other meet beside the North State and the State meet because she didn't get a lot of practice. She still felt pretty confident, especially coming off a first-pace showing at the AAA North State meet in which she had a winning throw of 35-7 1/4. She also finished third in the triple jump (32-0).
At the Overall State meet, the lack of traction made it challenging in the triple jump and shot put. The wet surface hampered Kerby, who uses the glide technique in the shot put, but she said she did enough to get a championship.
"I don't think I could have gone to the state meet and felt right about getting second again," said Kerby, who was runner-up to Tsema last year with a throw of 32-4 3/4. "The girls behind me were about two feet behind me, so I knew I had a pretty safe place where I was, and I just felt I needed to push myself as far as I could get to remain in first."
Last year, Kerby also took sixth in the triple jump (33-6 1/2) and third in the 400 (1 minute, 2.16 seconds). Kerby said Tuesday it still hasn't hit her that she is a state champion. She said it was hectic dealing with the conditions and fun at the same time being with her friends.
Next season, Kerby knows it might not be as fun simply because she will be the one competitors will target. She knows where she wants to throw next season and she is focused on doing what she needs to do to get there.
"I probably could break the state record if that's all I did year-round," Kerby said. "But I practice two weeks before the two meet, but it is not a priority like basketball is to me. If I stay where I am, I think I can throw 37 to 38 feet next year.
"At the beginning of every year, I can always tell the difference from previous years. The state record is definitely there. I think I can get it, but it is hard to transition from basketball right into track and not having any time in basketball season to practice track."
n In other finishes by local competitors, Oak Hill Academy's Shay Atkins was seventh in the Class AA shot put (28-9 1/2), Starkville Academy's Caleb merchant was eighth in the Class AAA boys long jump (17-4 3/4), and the Starkville Academy girls were sixth in the Class AAA 4x800 relay (10:01.18).
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.