Lakeland gets ready to run

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lakeland Activities Director and outgoing head track coach Gregory Rountree Sr. (right of center) addresses one of the biggest indoor track teams that Lakeland has fielded in recent history.

To Lakeland High School’s pleasant surprise, it brings a comparatively crowded field of athletes to the 2012-13 indoor track season.

Head coach Kevin Knight, who has coached track at Lakeland for the last five years, estimates that the previous highest number of athletes on the team has been 20.

“We have close to 40 people coming out this year,” Knight said.

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This is due, in large part, to a strong number of girls participating, including many from the Southeastern District champion field hockey team. Several players from that squad help form a particularly potent relay team.

“The expectations are high for our girls, especially our 4×800 team,” Knight said. “They’re two-time district champions, so hopefully this will be the third year in a row they win district, which I know they’ll do. Hopefully, we can pull this regional thing out and qualify for state. That’s our goal, to win a state championship with our girls, especially with that relay team.”

That same 4×800 team, which was a regional qualifier last year, is composed entirely of juniors: Alexis Albright, Jamee Albright, Alexus Copeland and Kristen Vick.

Knight is thinking of fielding two 4×800 teams.

A team state championship on the girl’s side can only come about by having more girls who qualify to compete at the state level.

“Every year, we probably have like one or two girls that are competing in the states, and I’d like to get four girls competing in the state championship,” Knight said. “We should be able to do that this year.”

On the boys’ side, Lakeland will miss former All-American and state champion Anaquan Peterson. Peterson graduated last year after adding the state championship in the triple jump to his list of accomplishments.

“But we have Greg Rountree coming in,” Knight said. “Hopefully he can fill that void as far as our triple jump and long jump.”

Rountree is a junior, as is Deonte Demiel, whom Knight expects to run well.

The team will miss high jump standout Jordan Hardiman.

“We lost Jordan, because he moved back to West Virginia,” Knight said. “That hurt us a little bit, but hopefully some of these young guys can come in and fill that void for us.”

Kyle Jones is the only senior on a team of 15 that is dominated by freshman and sophomore classes.

“Hopefully (Jones) can help us out with distance running as far as the 500 meters,” Knight said.

Knight was not discouraged by the relative lack of experience on the boys’ team.

“We got a lot of potential and that’s what I like about it,” he said.

Knight was looking forward to seeing how his team performed in its first district meet of the season, which took place Thursday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.

Though he has coached the girls’ team previously, this will be Knight’s first year as the overall coach of Lakeland’s track team. Knight has a long history with the program, dating back to when he attended the school as a student. He was a state champion in the 300-meter dash, an All-American in 1998 after his performance in the 60-meter dash and 4 x 200 relay, and he still holds the school record for the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Knight was coached by outgoing head coach Gregory Rountree Sr., who is now activities director at Lakeland. Rountree, however, is still instrumental in the team’s success, serving as a valuable consultant to Knight.

“Everything he teaches me, I go out and just show them, and that’s how we try to become successful,” Knight said.