Matching track and field titles

MURFREESBORO — A day after Mt. Juliet Christian’s Darius Hylick won the state shot put and discus in the Division II-A boys’ state meet, Wilson Central’s Zoe Vlk matched him in the Division I-Large meet at Middle Tennessee State’s Dean A. Hayes Track Stadium.

Vlk’s 44-9 throw was five inches better than Jefferson County’s Jaycee Schroeder. The junior took the discus a short time later with a throw of 128-10.

Her shot put performance wasn’t necessarily her best, but it was good enough on this day. And she was consistent as her worst throw in the final was 41-8.25.

“She was over 44 feet three times,” said Wilson Central assistant coach Braidy Miller, who coaches those events under head coach Jonathan Booher. “She had a couple slip out of her hands. She got a little bit sweaty. Overall, you couldn’t ask for a better series.”

“The best thing to do is push it away and don’t think,” Vlk said of a bad throw. “Thinking is your worst enemy.”

Vlk, now a junior, has been doing shot put and discus since her freshman year. She said they are similar sports.

“When you break it down to the basics, then, yes, they are very similar, but then it goes into more strength in shot put and more finesse for discus.”

Despite winning state in the shot put, she much prefers discus.

“I hate shot put,” Vlk said. “I really like discus more than shot put.”

Thursday’s championships were predicted by Miller when she first tried out as a freshman.

“The first day of tryouts, I told her mom she will place in state in one or both events,” Miller said. “She is naturally athletic in the sense she has a good finish with her arm. She is really strong in the weight room. In the last year and a half or so she has become very dedicated. She works very hard, both in the classroom and in the field and in the weight room. In face, I’ll have to have her back off because she will do too much. It’s fun to work with someone like that.

“She is very intelligent. She takes coaching well. And she’s fun to be around – that’s every day.

“She has a volleyball background, and she kind of outgrew that. She came to me with an athletic skill set that a lot of young girls who want to throw don’t have. She’s strong, she’s put together real well and the weight room is her favorite place to be.”

Vlk will compete in both events in the Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. next month. But before that, she will compete in the Tennessee Meet of Champions at Brentwood High School on May 31-June 1 in which the top 24 marks throughout the state in all events in all divisions and classifications will vie for best in state.

It was the start of a busy day for Wilson County’s three large-school track teams at MTSU. While Vlk was winning the shot put, Lebanon’s Nathanael Green finished fourth in the boys’ triple jump with a distance of 43-4.5

It was especially busy later in the afternoon when the running events got under way.

On the boys’ side, Lebanon’s Tyson Kelley came closest to taking gold when he finished second in the 400 meters in :51.05, .45 second behind winner Jeb Martin of Franklin County. His Blue Devil teammate, Spencer Lowery, was seventh in his heat in the 300 hurdles in :40.13. Aiden Britt finished fourth in the 3,200 meters in 9:30.07.

Mt. Juliet’s Colby Martin was eighth in the 100 meters in :11:35 and also eighth in the 200 in :22.31. The Golden Bears were third in the 4-by-100 relay in :42.1.

On the girls’ side, Mt. Juliet freshman Meghan Grimes, competing against Vlk in the discus, was fifth with a throw of 117-9. Jordan Stromquist was sixth in the 100 meters in :12.34 and seventh in the 200 meters in :25.89. The Lady Bears’ 4-by-100 relay team was seventh in :49.22 while the 4-by-800 was 12th in 10:18.55.

Wilson Central’s Morgan Bailey was 14th in the 100 hurdles in :17.2.

MJCA’s Hylick wins two state titles, Collier one

MURFREESBORO — Mt. Juliet Christian had one TSSAA state championship in its history coming into last Wednesday’s Division II-A state track and field meet at Dean A. Hayes Stadium at Middle Tennessee State.

Darius Hylick tripled that number by lunchtime, and teammate Logan Collier made it four later in the afternoon.

The Saint senior took the state shot put championship with a throw of 49-11.5. A couple of hours later, he added the discus gold medal with a throw of 136-8 despite fouling on two of his attempts.

“I started out kind of slow, my first throws,” said Hylick, who hit the winner on the third of four tries. “And then, it just came upon me as I threw.”

Collier won the 200-meter run in :22.37 and was part of the 4-by-100 relay team which finished fifth in :44.86.

Hylick, who ran for over 4,700 yards in football, has been doing the shot put since seventh-grade. Before receiving his championship medal, and before adding another title in the discus, what he had accomplished in matching MJCA’s girls’ doubles tennis duo of Victoria Reed and Crystal Harwell in their state title season of 2005 hadn’t yet hit.

“It doesn’t seem real yet,” said Hylick, one of the most decorated athletes in MJCA’s history. “It’s been very special. It’s unreal. It’s just a great school.”

Collier, Hylick’s fellow football teammate who will join him on Lindsey Wilson College’s team this fall, finished fourth in the long jump with a leap of 20-3.25. He was also fourth in the triple jump early Wednesday afternoon with a distance of 40-1.25. He also finished fifth in the state decathlon the week before at Nashville’s Franklin Road Academy.

Young racer Chase injured in crash

By Larry Woody

Correspondent

Talented young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson is temporarily sidelined with a broken kneecap suffered in a hard crash at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway last week, but says he “can’t wait” to get back in a race car.

“Wrecks are going to eventually happen,” says the 13-year-old seventh-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy who last year was crowned the youngest champion in the 60-year history of Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.

“It was scary, and at first I thought I’d broken my leg,” says Chase, whose left knee is in a protective brace. “But I’ll be OK.”

“It shook me up,” says Chase’s father Andy, also a former Fairgrounds Speedway track champion.

“I was watching from the top of the truck when it happened,” Andy says. “I jumped down and ran over, and when I got there, Chase was yelling, ‘My leg! My leg!’ I thought it was broke.”

Chase was removed from his demolished car and taken by ambulance to a Huntsville hospital. Initial X-rays didn’t reveal the fracture, but after returning home, another hospital visit showed a broken knee cap.

Chase is expected to wear the brace for two-to-three weeks, and doctors predict a complete recovery.

As soon as he is able, Chase plans to get back in a race car.

“I can’t wait,” he says.

“He tried to drive a few practice laps in our Supertruck last Sunday at the Fairgrounds,” his father says, “but he wasn’t able to work the clutch with the brace on his knee.”

During his long racing career, Andy suffered only one injury.

“Back in the late 1990’s I broke my hand in wreck,” he says. “I don’t remember much about it, but it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t even put a cast on it.”

Seeing their son injured – and knowing it could have been much worse — was an emotional moment for Andy and Chase’s step-mom Allison.

“It really tore her up,” Andy says. “And I admit it tore me up too. It was a hard hit and looked pretty bad.”

Chase was battling another car for position when they collided, and Chase was spun head-on into the retaining wall.

“It happened so fast that I didn’t realize what was happening,” Chase says. “The other car came down on me, and the next thing I knew I was in the wall. I knew right off that my leg was hurt. It was pretty painful, and I thought it was broke.”

The Huntsville race was the first of the season for Chase, after two scheduled events at the Fairgrounds were rained out. The Nashville track finally ran its first points races of the season last Sunday.

Chase hopes to be back behind the wheel in time for Fairground Speedway’s next feature in a couple of weeks, but missing a race puts him in a deep hole in terms of competing for another championship. The two rainouts has reduced an already-short schedule, leaving less chances for a rally.

But although Chase’s title hopes suffered a blow, and even though his car was virtually totaled, his father says that’s OK.

“There’ll be lots of other races, and we have more race cars,” he says. “But we have only one son. We lost a car, but we have Chase, and that’s all that matters.”

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s motorsports writer. Email him at larrywoody@gmail.com.

Lady Wildcats’ run ends at Dickson County 5-2

DICKSON — Dickson County turned back Wilson Central at the door of the state tournament with a 5-2 sectional win Friday afternoon.

The Lady Cougars broke a scoreless tie with a fourth-inning fielder’s choice. But the big blow as a two-out three-run double in the bottom of the fifth.

Central got a run back in the top of the sixth when Kaylee Richetto’s sacrifice fly scored her sister, Sydnee, who had doubled off the center-field fence.

Dickson County got a damaging run in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out hit for a 6-1 lead.

The Lady Wildcats got their final run in the seventh when Grayce Guethlein walked. Her courtesy runner, Rylee Younggren, scored on a hit to right field by Alaina Morris, but it wasn’t enough as Central finished a 25-15-2 season.

Purvis resigns as MJHS baseball coach

Mark Purvis resigned as Mt. Juliet High baseball coach last week.

Purvis, who will turn 48 next month, spent 23 years with the Golden Bears as the second baseman for coach Jerry Flatt in 1987-89, an assistant coach under Jerry McFarlin and, for 18 of the past 20 seasons, head coach.

His Bears compiled an overall record of 516-194, one state runner-up finish, six state tournament trips, eight sectionals and nine District 9-AAA championships.

The former Cumberland second baseman and assistant coach also oversaw the building, expanding and maintenance of a field and facility at two different sites. All of that has taken a toll, he said.

It’s just time for me to step away,” Purvis said Wednesday evening, hours after informing his coaching staff and players of his decision. “Health reasons and stuff, I just decided I want to spend time with family.

“Baseball is not a healthy sport to coach, I can tell you that. From January until the end of the season, it seems like a sprint… We built something and now it’s hard to maintain it. Getting old.”

A husband and father of two, he saw over 100 of his players play college baseball, including nine in the Southeastern Conference. Six have gone on to play professional baseball, including three major leaguers – former pitcher Taylor Hill, Caleb Cotham (currently a Cincinnati Reds pitching coach) and Cody Carroll (currently on the injured list in the Baltimore Orioles’ system). Purvis said he plans to continue to teach geography at MJHS.

“I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “I’ll just stay at the school to teach and see what else comes up.

“I can’t explain it, but I want to be able to take a weekend in February and go to Gatlinburg, or go see Cumberland play or go see Vanderbilt (where former Bear Ethan Smith is a Commodore pitcher) play. I don’t want to watch them in the boxscore. I want to watch them (in person) again.”

Winfree Bryant’s Teeter named boys’ hoops coach at Wilson Central

Winfree Bryant Middle School basketball coach Michael Teeter has been named head boys’ basketball coach at Wilson Central High School, WCHS athletic director Chip Bevis confirmed Tuesday night.

Teeter is a former Friendship Christian basketball and football star whose mother, Deanna, is the Lady Commanders’ winningest hoops coach.

Before coming to Winfree Bryant, Teeter coached the boys at Watertown Middle. He was also at Wilson Central on Troy Bond’s staff in the early 2010s.

“He’s local,” Bevis said. “He knows the community. He has experienced with Central.

“Has a good background, good family, just a lot of things we were looking for.”

Teeter replaces Chris Carney, who left the school after three seasons last month to take the position at Mt. Pleasant. He will become the Wildcats’ fourth coach since the school opened in 2001, but the third since Bond left for Oakland in 2015.

Lady Bears capture 9-AAA championship

Mt. Juliet scored twice in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday night to break a tie and win the District 9-AAA championship 8-6 over Wilson Central at Lebanon.

The Lady Bears built a 6-1 lead through three innings on a two-run homer by Kailey Brimm and a two-out RBI single by Kara Hood. Laney Tucker’s RBI brought Mt. Juliet into a 1-1 tie in the first.

But the Lady Wildcats got back in the game on one swing from freshman Taelor Chang, who blasted a grand slam to bring Wilson Central into a 6-6 tie. Central took its 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded walk to Shelby Moore.

Makayla Draper’s RBI single broke the tie in the fifth and Kaileigh Billington’s sacrifice fly to center added the insurance run.

With the win, Mt. Juliet played host to Springfield while Wilson Central travele to Clarksville in Region 5-AAA first-round games Monday with the winners meeting Wednesday for the championship. Monday’s winners also qualified for Friday’s sectional.

Wilson Central advanced to the district final with a 6-2 win over Station Camp earlier in the evening. The teams were tied 2-2 after the first inning.

Station Camp reached the loser’s bracket final by overpowering host Lebanon 9-2 Thursday as the Lady Bison blasted five home runs, including four in a seven-run third inning.

Mt. Juliet edges Wilson Central 4-3

Laney Tucker’s two-out single to right field scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning as Mt. Juliet edged Wilson Central 4-3 in the District 9-AAA winner’s bracket final Wednesday night at Lebanon.

Wilson Central jumped to a 2-0 lead on RBI doubles by Kaylee Richetto and Emily Rowe. Mt. Juliet answered in the bottom of the first for a 2-2 tie.

Mt. Juliet failed to score despite loading the bases in the fourth inning. But Makayla Draper homered to center field to lift the Lady Bears to a 3-2 lead in the fifth.

Richetto answered with a shot to right-center to lead off the sixth, tying the score 3-3.

Lady Bears stop Station Camp 6-2

Mt. Juliet scored four first-inning runs Tuesday and went on to defeat Station Camp 6-2 in the District 9-AAA tournament at Lebanon.

Camryn Cernuto led off the Mt. Juliet first inning with a single and scored on Karah Hood’s fielder’s choice. Gabby Faccadio followed with a single before Kaileigh Billington drove in another run on a fielder’s choice. Faccadio scored on a wild pitch and Makayla Draper singled in the inning’s final run.

Draper homered in the seventh before Ryleigh Osborne walked and scored the final run on a sixth-inning error.

Cernuto had three singles while Faccadio and Kailey Brimm each finished with two.

Top Wilson student-athletes honored

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Sports Council Division held the best all-around student athlete awards luncheon Friday afternoon at Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel, where two students each received a $1,500 scholarship to the school of their choice.

Athletes represented a myriad of high school sports, all who were nominated by their athletic directors, coaches or principals based on not only their athletic abilities and achievements, but also their outstanding academic records.

Wilson Central High School student Mia Catherine Yin Harris and Friendship Christian School student Daniel Lucas were both selected for the scholarships.

Other honorees included Cameron Burton, who also represented Friendship Christian School; Jasmine Fuqua and Ryan Brown, who represented Lebanon High School; Samantha Clark and Logan Collier, who represented Mt. Juliet Christian Academy; Isabella Agee and Michael Ruttlen, who represented Mt. Juliet High School; Abby Groce and Brandon Allison, who represented Watertown High School; and Barrett Streeter, who represented Wilson Central High School.

Former University of Tennessee coach, defensive coordinator and radio host Doug Mathews was the guest speaker. He spoke about not giving up, teamwork and working hard.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something,” Mathews said.

Central Tennessee Soccer seeks new place to play

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

The Central Tennessee Soccer league seeks for new fields, so league play cannot be interrupted when it starts in August.

Its last game of the season will be Saturday on its current fields at 700 Sullivan Bend Road in Mt. Juliet. As soon as the games are done, team members and leaders will pack their items and take them to storage.

The league was at the Sullivan Bend property for eight years, according to Johnny Davis, director of coaches for Central Tennessee Soccer.

“We always knew [the property] was going to be sold at some point, but just didn’t know when,” Davis said. “We were notified right before Easter that we had 30 days to vacate the property.”

About 700 players are in the league each year, which has two seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall. The one in the spring runs March through May, and the fall league runs from August through October. There are about 350 players during each season, Davis said. Currently, there are 30 teams in the league. Players range from 4-18 years old.

“We would love to stay in Mt. Juliet, but we also want to keep our league alive, so we would be open to other options,” he said. “Most of us live in Mt. Juliet and most of our kids live in Mt. Juliet.

“I’m confident we will find land, even though it might not be as much as we would like. We have asked our current families to reach out to everyone they know. We have done some door knocking. We have posted on Facebook. We did a news story on [a Nashville television station] last week. I personally met with Kenny Martin, the Mt. Juliet city manager, and he is trying to help me find some options for fields. 

The league can make 8 acres “work, but would prefer around 15 acres,” Davis said. “On 15 acres, we could put about 12 different size soccer fields. With 8 acres, we would be able to do around six to eight fields.”  

In 2018, the league started what they called the Foundation Program, which allows all the kids in U6 and U8 to play for free or for a donation. 

“We did this, because we wanted every child to have the chance to be introduced to the great game of soccer without having to worry about financial obligations that might limit them from playing,” he said. “For a lot of us involved with the league, these kids have become like family. For me, my son is almost 8 and has been playing in the league for four years now. I have several kids who have played with me for three-plus years. We have several people who have been volunteering with our league for years without having kids involved in the league anymore, because they love these kids and the game of soccer.

“After Saturday’s games, we will start at 2 p.m., packing up the goals to transport them to a storage location. Any help with that would be appreciated.”

To contact Davis, call him at 615-354-3957.

Bears win finale on walk-off sac fly

MT. JULIET — Tyler Worden’s sacrifice fly scored Xavier Mathews with the walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh inning of Mt. Juliet’s 6-5 win over defending state champion Rossview in the Golden Bears’ regular-season finale Wednesday night.

Seth Stevens singled to lead off the seventh and, after a sacrifice bunt by Corey Settle, was replaced by Mathews on second base. A pair of walks loaded the bases for Worden, whose flyout lifted Mt. Juliet to a final 22-11 for the regular season.

Parker Van Avery pitched the final two innings to even his record at 2-2. The fourth Bears pitcher of the night, he allowed two runs in the top of the seventh.

Warren Lee pitched the first two innings, allowing a run. Hayden Robbins worked two scoreless innings and Benny Pirrone one.

Mt. Juliet outhit Rossview 9-7 with Worden driving in two runs. Grayson Cole tripled and singled while Corey Settle doubled and Matt Johnston singled twice.

The Golden Bears are seeded fourth for the District 9-AAA tournament and were to face No. 5 Wilson Central last Saturday at Hendersonville’s Drakes Creek Park. Hendersonville, the top seed and armed with the automatic berth in the Region 5-AAA tournament, was to face Portland, with winners and losers to meet Monday.

Clarksville sends Central to 7-2 loss in finale

GLADEVILLE — Clarksville closed out Wilson Central’s regular season Wednesday night with a 7-2 win in a battle of Wildcats.

The visitors scored two runs in the first and fourth innings and three in the fifth. Central countered with two in the bottom of the fourth as the home team finished 19-13.

Kameron Bond pitched the first two innings and took the loss. Gary Denton and J. Guethlein each worked two innings before Blaine Mabry threw the seventh. Clarksville outhit Central 11-5.

Bond, by then having moved to right field, hit a two-run homer for Wilson Central’s runs.

Wilson Central finished fifth in the District 9-AAA standings and was to face No. 4 Mt. Juliet at 11 a.m. Saturday in the first round of the tournament at Hendersonville’s Drakes Creek Park. The top-seeded Commandos will face No. 8 Portland at 2. Winners and losers will meet Monday.

Bakers cook up 2-0 shutout for Central

GALLATIN — Nick Baker and Hayden Baker combined to pitch a six-hit shutout Tuesday night as Wilson Central closed out the District 9-AAA schedule with a 2-0 shutout of Station Camp.

Oldham, Williams Burger added to Wilson Central Sports Hall of Fame

Dee Oldham (left) and Sara Williams Burger will be inducted into the second class of the Wilson Central Sports Hall of Fame on May 23 at the school.

The induction of the former basketball stars is part of the school’s annual senior athlete recognition banquet which will begin at 6 p.m. In addition to basketball, Williams Burger also played and coached softball for the Lady Wildcats.

Tickets may be purchased in advance for $25 at the school front office during regular school hours.

Mt. Juliet earns top seed in District 9-AAA tournament

Despite a Senior Night rainout on the heels of a 5-3 loss to Wilson Central, Mt. Juliet earned the top seed in the District 9-AAA tournament, followed by No. 2 Wilson Central.

Following first-round home games at home Monday, the tournament shifted to Lebanon, which gave the Wilson County teams a clean sweep of the top three seeds in the eight-team tournament. Some loser’s bracket games are being held at Cumberland’s Billy Dee Ross Stadium.

Titan Caravan visits Mt. Juliet football

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Tennessee Titans football players and cheerleaders visited Mt. Juliet High School football players and cheerleaders on Thursday evening, where they stressed the importance of hard work, education and perseverance to the young athletes.

Linebacker Jayon Brown, linebacker Rashaan Evans, outside linebacker Sharif Finch, punter Brett Kern, kicker Ryan Succop and cheerleaders Andrea and Ashley joined students in the school’s workout room, where they shared their stories of high school and college experiences and what led them to the successes they’ve found in the National Football League.

Mt. Juliet head football coach Trey Perry said the event was a unique opportunity for his players to connect with professional athletes and to really understand the importance of hard work on and off the field.

“It’s a good time for our guys and cheerleaders to really ask some questions that otherwise they don’t get to ask from people that they look up to and the people that they get to see cheer or play on Sundays,” Perry said.

Junior wide receiver Malik Bowen was excited for the visit and the opportunity to connect with the Titans and learn how best to tackle the challenges ahead as he prepares for a future football career at Duke University.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Bowen said. “You get to ask people who have been on this path of playing football, who have gone through the process, and ask them questions about how to get through the process and learn the different ways that they’ve done it.”

Chase can’t reign in the rain

By Larry Woody

Correspondent

After a long off-season, young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson was itching to get back on the track and pick up where he left off last year – being crowned the youngest champion in any major division in the 60-year history of Fairgrounds Speedway.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has applied the brakes.

First, the season opener was rained out, then last Saturday’s second event was also a washout.

“It’s very frustrating,” says Chase, a seventh-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy who recently turned 13. Last year, at age 12, Chase became the youngest winner of a feature race, then followed it up by becoming the track’s youngest champ when he claimed the Pro Late Model title.

“We worked all winter getting our cars ready,” he says, “and so far we haven’t been able to run a lap.”

The frustrations transcend state boundaries. Not only have both of the Fairgrounds’ first two events fell victim to bad weather, so have the first two races at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway where Chase was also planning to run.

“Both times we drove all the way down there, then had to turn around and come home,” he says. “I know there’s nothing anyone can do about it, but it sure is frustrating to get ready to race, then have it cancelled.”

If the two points races can’t be made up later in the season, losing two events from an already-abbreviated schedule puts more pressure on each of the remaining races. If a driver gets in a hole, he has less opportunity to climb out.

But pressure is nothing new for Chase. He has been living up to high expectations for some time. As he noted a couple of years ago, some of the track’s veteran drivers considered him “just a kid in a driver’s suit.”

Now they know better, and with a championship under his belt, the expectations will continue to grow.

“I don’t plan to do anything different this season,” Chase says, reflecting on last year’s title run. “I’d like to be a little more consistent and win more races, but that will always be my goal.”

In addition to chasing a second Pro Late Model crown, Chase will also compete for the track’s SuperTruck championship.

“I don’t think it will be too much,” he says about the challenge of pulling double-duty. “I like to race – the more the better – and I’ve got a lot of great people helping me.”

Chase, who collected more trophies than he can count in Quarter-Midget racing before moving up to stock cars, has caught the attention – and admiration – of some long-time Fairgrounds Speedway observers.

Terrell Davis, owner and editor of Middle Tennessee Racing News, says Chase could fit in the mold of such notable stars as Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Hamilton and Sterling Marlin.

“Chase Johnson is one of the most impressive young racers I’ve ever seen,” Davis says.

“He handles himself well on and off the track, and has the talent and the competitive spirit to climb a long way up the racing ladder.”

“He’s a good little racer,” says dad Andy, who won the Speedway’s Pro Mod championship in 1997 and the premier Late Model title in 2008. “He works hard at it. I’m proud of him.”

Chase’s sponsors include R.C. Complete Auto & Paint, Action Homes, Parker Brothers Window Tinting, Matts Transmissions and Barrett’s Garage and Wrecker Service.

“Everything is in place for another good year,” he says. “I can’t wait to get on the track.”

+++

Highland Rim: Lebanon’s Hunter Wright won the Legends season opener at Highland Rim Speedway as he launches defense of his series championship.

Wright is also competing in the track’s Pro Late Model Division, in which he is second in the standings. Hartsville’s Garrett Dies is third.

For complete point standings and information about the schedule and tickets, visit the track’s website.

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at larrywoody@gmail.com. 

Busy Bears on the track-and-field circuit

With the season winding down, Mt. Juliet has been busy in the past couple of weeks.

The Golden Bears and Lady Bears were among 78 teams who competed in the Vol Classic at UT-Knoxville in cold and wet conditions last Saturday.

The 4-by-100 relay team of Colby Martin, Michael Ruttlen, Christian Donatelli and Jamari Sowell won silver in 43.58 seconds.

Henry Griffin won silver in the 800-meter run in 1:59.78.

Jordan Stromquist won bronze in the girls’ 100-meter dash in 12.51 seconds.

The girls’ 4-by-800 relay team of Alex Houston, Jalyn Jenkins, Sydney Jaynes and Elyse Dutch finished fourth in 10:27.03.

Earlier last week, Mt. Juliet’s girls won the District 9-AAA championship for the fourth straight year at Hendersonville with 151 points.

Stromquist was named girls’ most valuable athlete after winning the 100, 200 and long jump and finishing second in the triple jump.

Bears outscore Dickson on Senior Night

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet celebrated Senior Night with a 7-5 win over Dickson County on Friday night.

The Golden Bears broke a 5-5 tie with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning with Matt Johnston’s RBI triple providing the go-ahead score.

That made a winner of reliever Warren Lee, who pulled even at 1-1 with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief. Parker Van Avery got the final five outs for his second save as Mt. Juliet improved to 20-10. Starter Hayden Robbins allowed five runs (four earned) on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in three innings.

Mt. Juliet outhit Dickson County 10-5. Van Avery had three of the hits, including a double. Johnston finished with two RBI.

The Bears faced Hendersonville in their final District 9-AAA series of the season Monday (at Drakes Creek Park) and Tuesday (at MJHS). Mt. Juliet will honor the 2009 state runner-up Bears at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday prior to the 6 o’clock season finale against Rossview.

Two big innings lead to Mt. Juliet win over LHS

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet gained a split of its District 9-AAA series with Lebanon by beat the Blue Devils 10-2 Wednesday night.

Lebanon took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning with an unearned run against Colton Regen. But the Golden Bears bounced back with six in the bottom of the third against Jake Jewell and four (one earned) in the fourth against Austin Brown.

Corey Settle doubled as he, Trey McNeese and Matthew Johnston drove in two Mt. Juliet runs each. McNeese had two of the Golden Bears’ nine hits as they improved to 19-10 for the season and 8-4 in the district.

Regen pitched 4 2/3 innings for the win, allowing an unearned run on three hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. Jake Fitzgibbons worked the final 2 1/3 innings with an unearned run in the seventh on two hits and two walks with six punchouts.

Luke Bradshaw had two of the Blue Devils’ five hits and their only RBI.

Britt pitches Blue Devils past Bears 9-1

Evan Britt held visiting Mt. Juliet to three hits Tuesday night as Lebanon took a 9-1 win at Brent Foster Field.

The Lebanon left-hander struck out eight in the full seven innings, allowing only a run in the sixth inning while the Blue Devil defense was errorless.

Chase Birdwell put the Blue Devils on the board with a second-inning home run over the left-field wall off Grayson Cole, who lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits while striking out three to fall to 4-2.

Birdwell banged out three of Lebanon’s eight hits while the Golden Bears committed five errors. Carson Boles doubled and drove in two runs.

Steven Jarrell had two of Mt. Juliet’s hits as the Golden Bears fell to 18-10 for the season and 7-4 in District 9-AAA.

Mt. Juliet run rules Stewarts Creek 16-3

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet rolled to a 16-3 win over Stewarts Creek on Monday night.

The Red Hawks, coached by former Lebanon coach Mike Bartlett, jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but got no more against Sam Simonson, who allowed five hits and six walks while striking out four to improve to 5-0.

Mt. Juliet scored in all four of the Golden Bear at-bats, starting with single runs in the first two innings before taking the lead with two in the third and blowing Stewarts Creek out with 12 in the fourth.

Matthew Johnson tripled as he and Corey Settle each drove in two Mt. Juliet runs on two hits. Dylan Kasper and Tyler Worden had two RBI apiece on two singles while Trey McNeese also singled twice as the Golden Bears improved to 18-9.

TWRA biologist from MJ flexes muscles

By Larry Woody

Mt. Juliet’s Jason Wisniewski, who recently joined the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with wife Jenifer, is noted for his muscles.

He’s not a body-builder. He’s a malacologist – a biologist who specializes in the study and management of freshwater mollusks, commonly known in Tennessee as muscles.

“Lots of people don’t realize they are one of our most imperiled species,” says Wisniewski, who works at the TWRA’s aquatic species hatchery at the Cumberland River Aquatic Center in Gallatin.

Why do muscles matter?

“They filter impurities from the water and are good ecological ‘early warning systems’ because they are so sensitive to pollutants,” Wisniewski says. “However, by the time we discover a pollutant is adversely impacting muscles, it’s probably too late to prevent the damage in that particular water.”

He adds: “It’s possible muscles have uses we haven’t discovered yet. That’s part of our research. But we never want to lose any species. We have to assume it has some purpose and function.”

Muscles have long been an important part of life in the Southeast.

They provided food, tools and ornaments for Native Americans. The oyster-like muscle was eaten, and the sharp shell was used for cutting and scraping. The iridescent shell was also fashioned into pendants, beads and earrings.

More modernly, muscles are harvested by divers for sale to the button industry, including foreign markets. Muscles are commercially farmed to produce fresh-water pearls. One such farm is located at Birdsong Marina on Kentucky Lake.

Wisniewski earlier this year joined the TWRA with his wife, who serves as the Agency’s Chief of Communications and Outreach. They settled in Mt. Juliet because of the quality of life and split proximity to their new jobs – Jenifer’s at TWRA headquarters in Nashville and Jason’s at the TWRA’s Aquatic Center in Gallatin.

Both previously held similar positions with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Wisniewski, a native of Pennsylvania, moved to Tennessee in 2001 to attend Tennessee Tech where he earned a Masters degree. He joined the Georgia DNR and quickly gained a reputation as an authority in his field, authoring 15 technical papers, assisting with a Supreme Court lawsuit, and most recently spending time at the Smithsonian to assist a mollusk research project.

Wisniewski says he “stumbled into” his mollusk career.

“I was interested in fisheries management, and the only openings at the time were in mollusk studies,” he says. “I took what was available, and the more I got into it, the more fascinating it became.”

The Aquatic Center was built decades ago by TVA, and in 2006 the TWRA opened an aquatic species hatchery program. Today the TWRA manages and operates the Center in partnership with TVA, Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“It’s a great facility and we’re fortunate to have it,” Wisniewski says.

During his free time Wisniewski likes to hunt, fish and trap. He is a member of the Fur Takers of America Grant Committee. He was a licensed “nuisance trapper” in Georgia and plans to eventually resume trapping nuisance animals here, in addition to his TWRA duties.

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at larrywoody@gmail.com.

Wildcats complete sweep of Lebanon

GLADEVILLE — Wilson Central completed a two-game District 9-AAA sweep of Lebanon 5-2 Wednesday night.

The Wildcats jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with one of the scores coming on Gabe Jennings’ homer. Kameron Bond’s two-run single came during a three-run third as Central built a 5-1 lead.

That was enough for Nick Baker, who allowed both Lebanon runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Hayden Baker pitched the final two scoreless innings, surrendering a couple of hits, as the Wildcats climbed to 14-9 for the season and 5-5 in the district.

Jake Jewell allowed all of Central’s runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Tyler Wiggins allowed two hits over the final two scoreless innings as the Blue Devils dropped to 10-14, 4-6.

Lebanon scored in the second and sixth innings as Thomas Bryan and Copeland Bradford drove in the runs from opposite ends of the batting order.

Jackson Odette doubled as he and Bond banged out two hits each from opposite ends of Wilson Central’s batting order as the Wildcats collected eight hits.

Luke Bradshaw banged out two of Lebanon’s nine hits.

Beech completes series sweep of Mt. Juliet

MT. JULIET — Beech completed a two-game District 9-AAA sweep of Mt. Juliet with a 6-3 win Wednesday night.

After trading first-inning runs, the Buccaneers nicked the Golden Bears to death with single scores in innings 3-5 before tacking on two more in the sixth, more than enough to survive Mt. Juliet’s two-run seventh as MJ slipped to 17-9 for the season and 7-3 in the district.

Jake Fitzgibbons allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings to fall to 2-1. Hayden Robbins gave up an unearned run during his two innings before Warren Lee worked the final two, surrendering the two in the sixth as Mt. Juliet committed three errors.

Mt. Juliet notched nine singles, including three by Trey McNeese and two each by Corey Settle and Steven Jarrell. Dylan Kasper had a sacrifice fly and Matthew Johnston the other RBI.

Wilson Central outscores Lebanon 10-6

Wilson Central took the lead with a three-run fifth inning and put Lebanon away with five in the sixth of a 10-6 win at LHS’ Brent Foster Field on Tuesday night.

The game was tied 2-2 when Central, which took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Gabe Jennings’ RBI single, surged in front 5-2. Luke Bradshaw blasted a home run against the scoreboard beyond the right-field wall to bring the Blue Devils to within two before the Wildcats, playing for the first time in almost a week, put five across in the sixth.

Matthew Jenkinson pitched 5 1/3 innings for the win, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk while striking out nine. Gary Denton recorded the final five outs, giving up a pair of unearned scores in the seventh.

Austin Brown pitched two innings in relief of starter Evan Britt and took the loss, allowing eight runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks. Britt surrendered two runs on just one hit in three innings, but walked five while fanning five. J.D. Usrey allowed a hit over two scoreless innings to finish up.

Wilson Central outhit Lebanon 8-7. Jackson Odette and Kameron Bond each doubled twice and Jenkinson once. Blaine Mabry singled twice. Jennings finished with two RBI.

Chase Birdwell drove in two Blue Devil runs while Ty Bailey doubled. Corey Jones cracked two singles.

Big Beech sixth inning beats Bears 5-3

HENDERSONVILLE — A four-run sixth inning boosted Beech past visiting Mt. Juliet 5-3 Tuesday night.

The Buccaneers wiped out a 1-0 Mt. Juliet lead with the uprising against Grayson Cole, who survived and pitched the full six innings but fell to 4-1. He allowed five runs (two earned) on four hits and five walks while striking out four.

Mt. Juliet scored once in the third inning and twice in the seventh, finishing with seven hits as the Golden Bears slipped to 17-8 for the season and 7-2 in District 9-AAA going into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. rematch at MJHS.

Tyler Worden drove in two Mt. Juliet runs on as many hits while Dylan Kasper had the other RBI. Michael Hardy and Steven Jarrell doubled.

Friendship overpowers MJCA in two-game sweep

Friendship Christian completed a two-game sweep of visiting Mt. Juliet Christian 13-1 Tuesday night.

Brothers Camden and Tarver Hayslip homered for the Commanders, who climbed to 20-6 for the season.

Friendship led 11-0 through two innings as Tarver Hayslip drove in four runs, Hayden Alexander three and Jared Dickey two. The Hayslip brothers had three hits each, including a double. Dickey doubled and singled while Alexander added two singles. Braden Reece, who will join Tarver Hayslip, Daniel Lucas and former Friendship infielder Joseph McNamee at Trevecca next season, also doubled as the Commanders cracked 12 hits.

Mt. Juliet Christian was held to two hits against Justin Seagraves, who walked two and struck out six in the five-inning game.

Jack Crouch drove in Justin Matthews with Mt. Juliet Christian’s run in the third inning.

Friendship was coming off a 22-6 win at MJCA on Monday.

A 15-run second inning built a 22-0 lead as Reece homered twice and Lucas, Dickey, Jackson Eskew and Ethan Raymer once each. Dickey, Seagraves and Camden Hayslip doubled. Dickey and Reese each racked up three hits while Seagraves, Lucas, Eskew and Tarver Hayslip had two apiece as Friendship finished with 18 hits.

Raymer and Reece each drove in four runs while Dickey had three RBI and Seagraves, Alexander, Lucas and Eskew two apiece.

Mt. Juliet Christian scored in the fourth and scored four in the fifth as the Saints notched nine hits, including home runs by Russell Prater and Dylan Boehm. Prater and Kam Curtis doubled. Prater produced three hits while Curtis and Boehm had two apiece. Boehm drove in two runs.

Reece pitched two innings before Connor Graves threw the final three for Friendship.

Andrew Burgess and Tanner Hollingsworth combined to threw three shutout innings in relief for Mt. Juliet Christian.

Carney leaves Wilson Central for Mt. Pleasant

Chris Carney is leaving Wilson Central to become boys’ basketball coach at Mt. Pleasant.

Carney, 31, will finish the school year on the WCHS faculty before finishing his move to the Maury County school this summer.

“He did a good job for us,” WCHS athletic director Chip Bevis said Friday. “We wish him well.”

Carney came to Wilson Central in 2016 from Portland and posted a three-year record of 38-46 with the Wildcats, including 10-18 this past season.

Bevis said the search for a replacement is under way.

Mt. Juliet High softball facility dedicated

National Pro Fastpitch vice president Gaye Lynn Wilson (white shirt on front row from left), Mt. Juliet High athletic director Mike Duncan, MJHS assistant coach Haley Knepp, Wilson County schools director Donna Wright, head coach Kevin Costley and assistant coach Desiree Kasper participate in the ribbon cutting for the Lady Bears’ new indoor facility Monday. They are backed by current and former MJ softball players and supporters.

Mt. Juliet overpowers Wilson Central 7-1

GLADEVILLE — Mt. Juliet used the long ball and a five-run third inning to overpower host Wilson Central 7-1 Thursday.

Gabby Faccadio blasted a first-inning home run. Kailey Brimm blasted a three-run shot in the third while Makayla Draper and Ryleigh Osborne (on a double) also had RBI.

Alyssa Costley coasted to victory with three hits allowed and six strikeouts in seven innings.

Sidney Link took the loss, surrendering 11 hits in seven innings for Central.

Draper had three hits while Costley and Osborne had two each for Mt. Juliet.

Kaylee Richetto had two of Wilson Central’s three hits.

Lady Wildcats outscore Lebanon 10-6

Wilson Central outscored host Lebanon 10-6 Tuesday evening.

The Lady Wildcats built a 3-0 lead midway through the second inning. Lebanon came back with four in the bottom half to go up 4-3. But Central tied the score in the fourth and used a six-run fifth to take a 10-4 lead. The Lady Devils got two back in the sixth before falling to 8-7 for the season, 1-3 in District 9-AAA.

Central outhit Lebanon 15-10, including four singles by Sydnee Richetto, who drove in a run. Mekayla Marshall knocked in two runs on three singles while Kaylee Richetto racked up two singles and an RBI. Freshman Alli Johnson hit a two-run double. Sidney Link doubled and singled while Kenzey Meador singled twice. Freshman Taelor Chang chipped in a double as the Lady Wildcats climbed to 3-1 in the district and 9-3-2 overall.

Madi Kimble doubled twice for the Lady Devils, one of which scored two runs in the second inning. She also picked up another RBI when she reached on an error. Anna Bennett tripled off the wall in right field and singled. Casey Fox collected an RBI double in the second inning while Aaryn Grace Lester supplied an RBI single and Bailey Lasater a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. Brizeida Chavez and Alaina Smith doubled while freshman Aly Dickerson and Addie Grace Porter singled.

Link pitched the full seven innings for Central, allowing three earned runs and four walks while striking out three to bring her record to 6-2.