All the pieces finally came together for Kell track and field coach Andi Jenkins this past season.
Her Lady Longhorns had been competing for a spot on the state podium over the years, reaching that mark with a fourth-place finish in 2011 and returning in 2012 with a fifth-place showing.
In both instances, it was standout athlete Kendell Williams who lifted Kell. She totaled 30 points by winning three individual state championships in 2011.
Williams duplicated her 30-point performance last season — only this time, it wasn’t enough as Kell found itself seven points shy of the podium.
This past season, however, Jenkins had enough talent available to push Kell further up the standings, as the Lady Longhorns scored 44 points and finished as the Class AAAAA state runner-up for the first time in program history.
For her team’s success, Jenkins is the 2013 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“I couldn’t have gotten this honor without the other coaches and my athletes,” Jenkins said. “This has been a four-year process. The girls worked so hard all year long and, at the end, it all paid off.”
Kell qualified eight athletes for 10 events and one relay for the state meet.
Besides Williams, who competed in the high jump, 100-meter hurdles and long jump, the Lady Longhorns had Sarah Gardner (400, 800), Marissa Keith (pole vault), Marielle Lewis (800, 1,600), Erin McKinney (shot put) and Ledaysha Smith (300) hurdles. Alana Archer and Sydni Hicks were also available in the 1,600 meter relay.
“I saw this type of season building,” Jenkins said. “Ledaysha was injured last year. Sarah Gardner was coming along. She was running cross country and was putting in the time and the hard work and the effort. We had a freshman, Marielle, come in, and we felt like she was going to fill in some holes that we had.
“Our field events people — we had Marissa Keith in the pole vault, and that was one of the differences. We (beat Miller Grove by two points) and she scored two points. That was a big difference there.”
Williams brought in 30 points with victories in her events, but Lewis was fifth in the 800, Smith fifth in the 300 hurdles and Keith seventh in the pole vault.
Ultimately, the finish came down to Kell’s 1,600 relay team.
The Lady Longhorns led Miller Grove by one point entering the event, and Kell fell behind the Lady Wolverines in the 1,600 relay. Williams managed to move Kell from seventh to fifth as Miller Grove dropped from second to fourth. Lewis, who ran the anchor leg, passed Miller Grove’s runner at the finish, beating her by .16 seconds and securing Kell’s standing as state runner-up.
The Lady Longhorns also placed third at the Cobb County Championships and tied Pope for the Region 7AAAAA crown.
“I’m so proud of them,” Jenkins said. “They went out and did the best they could. We got as many girls as we’ve ever gotten to the state meet in as many events as we possibly could. They really did the school proud. They were a class act while they were there. Coaches were coming up to me telling me how good of a group of girls I had, and I knew I did. They were an excellent group.
“Most of our team is leaving. We had so many seniors this year. It’s really sad and bittersweet to see them go. It’s going to be tough. There are some big shoes that have to be filled, so they’ve made a huge impact at Kell High School.”