It’s no secret on the Maryville track and field team that the girls are the ones setting the pace for success.
The Lady Rebels have picked up right where they left off following their breakout season last year, and they have a shot at winning the state championship. Their growth has served as motivation for the boys, who are also gaining steam as a program.
“It comes from the girls having so much success,” said junior A.J. Davis, a long jumper and sprinter. “They win almost every freaking tournament. It’s like, ‘Alright, the girls are going to win, so we’ve got to get one.’
“It just drives us to work harder.”
Maryville’s track and field team is on the rise — a product of success breeding more success and the school investing resources into the program. The squad is enjoying an abundance of depth, a new track facility as well of the addition of several coaches with expertise in specific events.
Will Jay is among the new assistant coaches at Maryville, which has roughly 130 athletes on its roster. A former head coach at Knoxville West, Jay joined the Rebels this season under head coach Nick White.
Jay said one of the selling points of coming on board at Maryville was its new track, which was built at Coulter Grove Intermediate School next to Maryville’s baseball field.
“This is a brand-new facility — that showed me they’re really serious about it,” Jay said. “It tells me that this is going to continue to be a strong program, and that’s our goal. ... We’d like to be a top team in the state all the time.”
The Maryville girls are coming off a big weekend at the at the Mountain Brook Invitational in Birmingham, Ala. — one of the largest track meets in the South. They placed first out of 79 teams while the boys took 22nd.
“The boys are almost where the girls were last year where the juniors were really on the verge of something big,” Jay said. “Right now, you have to say (the girls) are in contention to win state. We are a top-three team.”
The girls are benefiting from a strong senior class as well as some talented newcomers. Georgie McDevitt and Rylee Jorgensen are among the upperclassmen leading the Lady Rebels. Both Wofford College signees, they compete on Maryville’s relay teams, which all rank in the top two in the state.
McDevitt and Jorgensen — along with Olivia Scott and Madeline Matzek — broke a school record in the 400-meter relay last weekend, finishing in 47.52 seconds.
“It’s grown a lot — not just in numbers, but in times and stuff,” Jorgensen said of Maryville’s program. “It has been nice just having our own facility, too because it offers a lot more room.”
Maryville’s relay success isn’t new. Jay said it was the main reason the Lady Rebels placed seventh in the state last season.
What has improved is the program’s balance of success across the board. Maryville now has coaches dedicated to specific areas of growth, allowing athletes to specialize in events.
“The fact that we have so many coaches who are so knowledgeable in every different area … we can actually get the most out of them,” Jay said. “It’s helping our kids specialize, taking them to that next level from being better than average to being exceptional.”
McDevitt is Maryville’s top sprinter, ranking second in the state the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. She recently set personal records in the 100 (11.98 seconds) and 200 (24.30) at the Mountain Brook Invitational. Last season, she won a state title in the triple jump.
Jay said a versatile athlete like McDevitt comes around once every five or six years if a coach is lucky.
“We always have really good people, but I feel like the new coaches have kind of been able to pick and choose where people go, so we’re more spread out,” McDevitt said. “It’s not everybody running in the same thing. We have somebody that’s good in every event.”
Outside of its relays, other standouts include shot putter Jasmine Ervin, who set a personal record in Alabama with a 37-foot throw, as well as freshmen Andie-Marie Jones and Lilly Lang.
Jones broke her own school record in the 3,200 run (11:00.16) while Lang set a personal record in the long jump (5 feet, 3 3/4 inches) last weekend.
Jorgensen said what makes this program especially strong is its connection and support across the boys and girls teams.
“A lot of times, running can be thought of as just being an individual sport,” Jorgensen said. “Whereas you can succeed individually, the mindset is winning for your team. We’ve realized that, if we’re going to succeed, we’re going to succeed all together.”
Maryville returns to action this weekend at the Volunteer Track Classic at the University of Tennessee.