Span takes shape
The Riverside Military Academy track and field team has already won its first Hall County championship this season. Eagles coach Jim Myers and senior standout Chris Howard hope that’s just a start.
The number of events Riverside won at the county event suggests the school could be a serious Class AA contender. It competes in the Region 8-AA meet Wednesday and Friday at Rabun County, with sectionals set for May 2 at Greater Atlanta Christian and state May 14-16 at Jefferson.
Howard earned shot put and triple jump county titles in addition to his role in the Eagles’ county-winning 400-meter relay that also included J.J. McCalston, Dante Tate and Alphonse Smith III. Tate prevailed in the 200-meter and 400-meter races, with Mahlik Faulk (110) and Tucker Pearson (300) collecting hurdles triumphs.
“Winning Hall County was big for us, going up against Flowery Branch, North Hall, Gainesville, all very strong track programs,” Myers said. “To put forth a team effort like we did to win that was very strong for us.”
Howard, likewise, enjoyed the perks that came from the Eagles’ exploits in Flowery Branch on March 26.
“It feels good to win,” said Howard, an East Tennessee State football signee. “But we’re focused on winning a AA state championship.”
Myers credits Gary Downs, the school’s former football coach and an assistant track and field coach at the beginning of the season, for “getting this team together and building it the way it is.” He gives the expected coaching caveat that anything could happen before acknowledging how excited he is about this group’s potential.
“If we run like we are capable of running, we should do quite well,” Myers said.
He expects numerous competitors for his team to reach state, which is the same weekend as Riverside’s graduation. Myers wouldn’t mind a busy weekend in Jefferson.
“That will be fun for me,” Myers said.
Howard said a brotherly competitive spirit fuels Riverside in its pursuit of championships.
He particularly has such a dynamic with Tate, a newcomer for the Eagles.
“If we race and he beats me, that makes me want to work hard to beat him,” Howard said.
Myers said Tate’s arrival coincided with a need on the Eagles’ relays.
“Dante came in and filled those places just to a T. He elevated the performance level of everyone else,” Myers said. “When he gets the stick, the boys just like to stand and watch him run. He glides.”
Howard said his school-record shot put of 56-4 on April 14 in Dawsonville came with two teammates also throwing for at least 48 feet. The senior credits weight training coach Gary Papka for helping him improve vastly in shot put and Downs for pushing him in the triple jump.
Howard played on both the football and basketball teams this year for Riverside, and those seasons didn’t finish up like he would have hoped. He said part of that came from the Eagles being overconfident, but that experience has helped Riverside’s track and field team.
“Because we’ve worked, we became the best,” Howard said. “And we’re going to keep it that way.”