Christian Locke is no stranger to the state stage, but this year he’ll be bringing a teammate.
Locke and Jayren Perkins each qualified for the state track meet after finishing in the top three of their respective events in the sectionals at Blackman High School.
Locke secured a spot in both the 800- and 1,600-meter races, finishing second in both events Saturday. Perkins clinched a sport with a third-place finish in the high jump.
Senior Bethany Fye just missed the cut for state, failing to finish in the top three in the triple jump – an event in which she set a school record during sectional qualifying in Rhea County on May 3.
“They all performed well while under an immense amount of pressure,” said WCHS track coach Tom Moore. “Jayren jumped well and tied for third against a phenomenal field, while Bethany came up just a little short after having a great year for us.
“Christian was able to move on in two events while running a personal-best in the 1,600.”
Locke turned in a blistering time of 4 minutes, 29.73 seconds competing in the 1,600, a mark only bested by Red Bank’s Cole Bullock (4:14.42). The speedy senior, who is bound for Berea College this fall for cross country and track, nearly missed taking top honors in the 800, an event he was 13th in at last year’s state tournament.
Locke flew around the track in 2:00.24 in the 800, just a step behind Blackman standout Charles Bennett’s winning 1:58.96 time.
Because the May 24 spring fling state event places the 800 and 1,600 events so close together, Locke may only be able to put his best foot forward in one event at MTSU. The senior said he’s leaning toward the 800.
After setting a school record to qualify for the sectionals, Perkins was once again at his best at Blackman. The senior cleared 6 feet in the high jump, tying him with Emilio Martin for third. Bradley Central’s Gunnar Olson won the event with a jump of 6’2”.
Martin is the reigning state championship in the high jump, leaping 6’5” last year. Perkins’ school record stands at 6’4”, which would have tied him for second at last year’s state championships.
Moore believes both Perkins and Locke will be in contention next week. At the very least, he believes they’ll put on a show that Pioneer fans will want to see.
“I’m excited to watch Jayren and Christian at this event. I’m confident they will both give their best effort,” said Moore. “The state track meet at the AAA level is incredible. Most teams can only qualify a couple of athletes and nearly all of the athletes who place are college-level athletes.”
The high jump is currently set for 11 a.m. next Thursday at Dean A. Hayes Stadium. The 1,600 is the fifth event on the track schedule, which is set to begin at 3 p.m. The 800 is the ninth event.