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CAK’s fearsome foursome reigns at state
Seven girls contribute to back-to-back 4 X 800 titles

Watch out, Christian Academy of Knoxville boys soccer players — some talented relay girls are right on your heels in the back-to-back state champs category. But CAK’s 4 X 800-meter girls relay team has gone one better than its soccer counterparts — unbeaten in all meets the past two years.

Last year, the Lady Warriors won the TSSAA Class A/AA state meet with no runner older than a sophomore.

Late last month in Murfreesboro, the older Lady Warriors overcame a key injury, and with two juniors and a pair of freshman breezed to a second straight crown.

“They came out at the beginning of this season, and were just motivated to run even harder,” CAK head coach Jere Margene said of 2007 champs Alyssa Bryson (anchor) and Curry Campbell (first leg), both juniors, and freshmen Leah Giles (second leg) and Mary Thompson (third). “They’re athletic girls, but they also work real hard. We’ve had freshmen girls just dying to get on the four-by-eight team.”

The Lady Warriors’ state title winning time was 9:49.93, but its best time this season was around 9:43.00.

“These girls care for each other, they run for each other,” Margene said. “That’s one thing that motivates them, is that they don’t want to let each other down.”

About Bryson at anchor, “She’s just the leader from the last two years,” Margene said. “Since she was a freshman, everybody saw how talented she was. The girls look up to her … she does a great job for us closing out the races.”

Bryson said she feels some pressure to finish strong, “because I want to finish strong for my girls. … I don’t want to let them down. We’re a close-knit group of girls and we love being with each other.

“Ultimately I think it has a lot to do with our faith,” Bryson added. “We know the Lord gave us our talent, and that really does bring us together a lot.”

Margene said Mary Thompson, “running third leg for us, also does a great job. She finishes well. There have been several races where we’ve been third or fourth-place, and she gets the baton and she runs everybody down and gives us the lead.”

As for the start, “Curry does a great job — starting’s not easy at all,” Margene said. “I think every race we’ve ever had she’s always been out of trouble. … Moving down from eight lanes to one lane people are getting bumped and tripped and stuff, and she always does a great job of getting out in front, keeping us clear of any trouble.

“Leah’s done the same thing on the second leg for us, she’s done a great job in several races,” the coach added.

Campbell said, “Everyone really has a strong love for the eight hundred who’s on this team, which created a lot of opportunity to bond. We all have, like, the same amount of endurance and strength. … We all run about similar times.

“We’re all so competitive, but at the end of the day we’re all, like, friends.”

Sophomore Julie Thompson, Mary’s older sister and CAK’s original second leg who was part of the 2006 state championship team, suffered a stress fracture and missed most of the 2007 season.

Giles stepped in and successfully filled the void. “We aren’t even at top strength and did this well,” Margene said.

Giles said, “We have all been friends for a long time and can just kinda work well together. … God just really blessed us this season in being able to be undefeated.”

Among CAK’s most impressive wins was the prestigious Volunteer Track Classic title among “close to twenty teams … it’s one of the bigger meets in the southeast,” Margene said. “They’ve run in some pretty big meets in this area and won ’em all.”

The Lady Warriors also have beaten its Knox County competition in KIL among other meets.

“We start training in January,” Margene said. “When you have talented girls it takes care of itself. They’re willing to work hard, and our assistant coaches [Roger Gum and Sandy Abelquist, mother of Bryson] do a great job of getting the workouts for ’em.”

Mary Thompson, only an eight-grader when running as the third leg for last year’s state champions, said during her eighth-grade year, “I was a lot more scared. This year it was really fun. … It was really exciting whenever we won.”

Campbell labeled Thompson, “just an incredible runner” who has been timed at 2:19 in her 800.

Another young contributor has been Becca Mirts. Although the freshman didn’t run at state, she successfully ran second leg at various meets. Sophomore Molly Zaczyk had a similar role on the 2006 team prior to winning state.

At the top, “Coach [Margene] has just been wonderful because he has given us just the right amount of practice and the right amount of direction,” Campbell said.

Margene, who just completed his seventh season as both girls and boys track and field head coach, has goals for 2008 beyond another state crown and perfect season. “Personally, I’d like to see ’em go under nine-thirty,” he said.


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