This season only marked year one for the Lyman Ward Military Academy track and field team, but the Rangers are already making big strides.
LWMA had three athletes finish at the top at the recent Alabama Independent School Association State Track and Field Championships in Selma.
Lyman Ward sophomore Rogan Norrell finished in first place at state in the 1600-meter run, while junior Michael Logan was state runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles and fourth in the 300-meter hurdles, and TJ Diallo finished third in the high jump.
Norrell, who finished with a time of five minutes, 16 seconds at state, said it was great to come out on top against good competition.
“I led all four laps and beat my personal best, so it was a good experience,” Norrell said. “It was competitive, though. There were a lot of other fast kids there. I was glad to come away with the win.”
Logan said state offered a great challenge and opportunity to compete that he is thankful for.
“It’s something that I always wanted to do was compete to be at the top. It feels good to be state runner-up,” Logan said. “With my form, I actually had to learn three-step the day we had the state competition. I’m thankful I had a good track coach to help me out and that I was able to run that fast.”
This season was the first for the Rangers fielding a track and field team. Will Williams, admissions officer and a coach on the Lyman Ward staff, said the team came together on a short notice, as their first practices were a week before their first meet on March 7. The Rangers competed in five meets in total this season.
“Really the way it came about, a lot of credit to Logan because he’s the one who came to me right after he first started here. He told me track was his sport and he was asking me what it would take to get that started here,” Williams said. “He asked me what were some of the times that placed at state last year, and he said he felt he could be competitive with those times. Then we just kind of got the ball rolling there and got the word out that we were going to get together a track team.”
With the support of track coach Michael Keys, Williams said the Rangers were able to find success and mold natural athletes into competitors.
“Rogan ran cross country this year, which was a sport we started last year, and he did well and placed well there,” Williams said. “So, we have some natural runners and a lot of natural athletes. The thing about getting it started was trying to find some practice time, trying to get some equipment and do it as best we can on short notice. TJ is one of our international students from Dubai. He came and he was just interested in doing some of the sprinting events at first. He went over and competed in the high jump and did well placing as high as tying for first place at one of the meets with a jump of five feet, eight inches. At state he ended up tying for third with a height of five feet, seven inches.
“He’s another one of the guys I was talking about who was just a natural athlete.”
With the program just beginning, the Rangers were short on equipment such as hurdles.
But Norrell, who ran cross country last year, said that competing in sports such as soccer and making sure to work in his down time helped prepare him for the season.
“I ran all game, so that definitely helps. In practice we’d run for conditioning,” Norrell said. “But I think the track coach helped me a lot with my pace and my form. I thank the school for giving me the opportunity to compete. The biggest challenge was that we don’t have a track, but I managed to run and get a lot of training in. I know it was harder for Logan because we don’t have any hurdles.”
Logan said the first practices were similar to what you would see in football, with an emphasis on conditioning and stretches. He said it was amazing to see the team come together to achieve its goals.
“To start off, the first practice we had we ended up with five guys showing up. We used the parade field down there and we did simple stuff like stretches and sprints and it was kind of like a football practice,” Logan said. “As time went on, more people came out and bought in (to the program). That’s kind of how it developed and then we just kind of bonded and formed a nice track team. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I couldn’t get as far as I could.”
Norrell said he hopes to get his time under five minutes next season, while Logan hopes to continue improving and one day gain a track scholarship.
Williams said that this season laid a great foundation for the future of the Rangers’ track and field program.
“Just to see all of that come together and to be able to go (to state), I can’t state enough how good a time we had,” Williams said. “We had 15 or 16 guys go to each meet, and whether they were placing or not, it was a very supportive atmosphere. It was really good for the school to get those guys together and to do that. We really laid a good foundation moving forward to next year.”