By Doug Gorman
Eagle's Landing Christian track coach Scott Queen probably thought he had seen it all this time last year--first as an athlete, and now as a head coach at the Class A private school in McDonough.
Then the phone call came. The kind of call no coach expects or wants to take.
Simply put, ELCA was told to stay home from the girls Region 7-A track and field championships.
So even though the team was motoring down the interstate toward Gwinnett County and the region meet, they turned around and headed back to Henry County.
The reason, a swine flu scare shut down the school and nearly derailed the entire athletic program for the rest of the year at ELCA.
Eventually, it looked like things were about to return to normal. The region track meet was postponed by one day, school resumed at ELCA after being closed for a short time, and all other sports were told they could resume their playoff schedules.
Even the girls track team thought they were about to compete. But then the coach learned the meet was still held without them.
This time there was nothing Queen, who also serves as athletic director, could do. The harsh reality, no region meet also meant there was going to be no state meet for the athletes who had worked so hard for high school track's ultimate prize--A trip to Albany.
"It was devastating," Queen said about breaking the news to his girls. "We have been able to use it as motivation this year.
Now, ELCA has put last year's unfortunate circumstances in its rear view mirror. A solid track and field season, and a new state of the art track to run on at the ELCA campus as lifted the team's sprits.
With good reason, ELCA knows this year it will get to participate in the Class A meet starting Friday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
Seven athletes have qualified for this weekend's meet including Symone Ball, who was named in the Region -7A MVP. She will run both the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 and compete in the high jump.
"It's so exciting, I remember going my freshman year, and I had such a blast. I was so ready to go again, but unfortunately things happened, and we had to stay home, but now we get to go back and we are going to be ready," Ball said.
The 4x100 relay team also includes Jasmine Jakes, Sallie Nowell, and Hanalee Lowry. The 4x400 includes Lowry Carli Shultis, Ball and Morgan Allman. Shultis will also compete in the 800 meters and Melissa Liston in the 300 meters. Lowry will also run the 200 and Allman in the 800.
For Shultis and Jakes it's been a busy week. The two multi-sport athletes have also been preparing for the Class A state soccer playoff.
According to Allman, ELCA wanted to send a message this season.
"We were disappointed, but we wanted to comeback even stronger and show everybody what we were made of."
Getting the new facility helped mend some of the hurt feelings from last year, according to Queen,
"I am glad all that time has passed us by," Queen said, "We are not sitting around, dwelling on the past. We have done a really good job this year, and I proud of them."
Queen doesn't have a measuring stick as to what will make a successful meet, but he knows ELCA has enough quality athletes to make a good showing in the Class A team standings.
"We are only taking seven athletes, but if we can be a top seven team, that would be great. There is a possibility we can even do better than that," he said.