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WCHS track members compete at state
Ella van Vranken Starting 1600m 5-27.jpg
Freshman Ella Van Vranken, wearing No. 5, was a busy girl running in three events Thursday at the TSSAA State Track Tournament. She competes in three high school sports and is a student at DeKalb County which co-ops with Warren County for track. - photo by Brad Durham
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Freshman Ella Van Vranken ran in both the 1600m and 800m races Thursday at the TSSAA State Track Tournament in Rockvale. - photo by Brad Durham

Five female members of the WCHS track team competed at the state tournament Thursday that was held at Rockvale High School. 

The girls representing Warren County track were Ally Beneke, Ella Van Vranken, Katie Toney, Emma Randall and Cadee Griffith. The TSSAA chose to hold the event at Rockvale High School because there would be no limits on the crowd size. MTSU has been the location for the track event in recent years, but at the time the TSSAA made the decision about where to hold the event, MTSU had a crowd restriction of 200 people.


Ally Beneke finished fifth in her high jump competition by clearing 5-foot-4 inches.  Samatha Degrace from Dobyns Bennett was in fourth place, Amani Sharif from Rockvale finished in third place, Torri James from Rossview was in second place, and Elsie Dobson finished in first place with a high jump of 5-foot-6.

High jumpers are placed for their best jumps and penalized in the case of a tie for failed attempts. Beneke was tied with her best high jump height with two other competitors. Several girls were close to the top, and Beneke was only 2 inches off the winning jump.

1600m & 800m

Freshman Ella Van Vranken competed in the 1600m and 800m races. Ella placed ninth in the 1600m race with a time of 5:15:54, which was only 7 seconds off the time of the eighth-place finisher, Morgan Blazer from Cocke County who had a time of 5:08:01. 

The top eight finishers receive a medal and stand on the podium at the end of each race. The top runner in the 1600m was Jane Halterman from Independence with a time of 4:56:62.

Ella Van Franken commented after the race, “I was going for the top eight, but I was pleased with my performance and time today. I have the 800m race later.”

Van Franken finished in ninth place in the 800m race later that day with a time of 2:21:93, which was a personal best for her, and she was only one second behind the eighth-place finisher, Grace Gibson from Houston who had a time of 2:20:91. The winner of the 800m race was Jordan Rayl from Ravenwood with a time of 2:17:88.

Ella Van Vranken’s mom is the cross country coach at DeKalb County Middle School, and she was the person behind the scenes who approached Warren County athletic director Todd Willmore about developing a co-op track program between DeKalb and Warren County high schools. 

Christian Van Franken said her daughter is relatively new to running. Christian said, “Ella plays basketball too, and she is a phenomenal basketball player. She was not interested in coming out for cross country her sixth- and seventh-grade years, but she came out last year for her eighth-grade year.”


Warren County had four girls compete in the 4x800 relay team competition. The relay team consisted of Katie Toney and Emma Randall from Warren County and Cadee Griffith and Ella Van Vranken from DeKalb County. Unfortunately, the relay team was disqualified.

Katie Toney shared her feelings about going to the state and what she knew about the team being disqualified. Toney said, “It was a very cool experience. I’m not sure why the team was disqualified, but I think it was because one of us ran past the mark before receiving the baton."

Coach Patty Kelly clarified, "Our relay team ended up getting disqualified because one of the runners grabbed the baton one step over the zone with the arrow. But it's OK. Mistakes happen sometimes. This relay was huge and it was new to them having 16 runners in one race and trying to move into the correct lane your runner happens to be in when they come around the track all at the same time as the other runners then having to judge the arrow in that lane and get the baton. We trained doing that and they did well, just one runner stepped over."