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First in Flight

Heritage Middle’s Payne, Maryville’s Malone, WB’s Carter pacing surge in discus

Heritage Middle’s Zoe Payne lets fly with the discus at the Blount County Middle School Track and Field Championships. Photos by Keith Driver. For more photos, pleas visit our Photo Store.

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

The previous throw was impressive, the best this season.

Zoe Payne was understandably pleased.

Payne grabs a smoothie at Vienna Coffee House after a recent practice.

Payne grabs a smoothie at Vienna Coffee House.

Heritage Middle track coach Travis Felder took a different approach.

“Coach Felder told me I can do better,” Payne said, “so I went up there (on the next throw) to do better.”

Payne’s next throw of the discus in a meet three weeks ago traveled a school-record 86 feet, putting her in the rarest of company.

The Lady Mustang eighth-grader backed up the record-setting throw with a winning toss at the Blount County Track and Field Championships last week at Maryville Junior High.

With friend and competitor Caroline Malone of Maryville also showing well, Carpenter’s Dylan Carter continuing to put up numbers on a national level, Blount County could own the discipline in coming years at the high school level.

Payne’s 86 footer was only the second time in the history of area track and field at the middle school level a girls’ thrower has breached 80 feet.

Former William Blount Lady Governor Madison Borden holds the area record with a 96-foot moonshot as an eighth-grader.

A basketball standout at Porter at the elementary level, Payne moved to track and field simply to try something different. After a successful seventh-grade year, she thought briefly about moving on yet again. In keeping with the advice prior to Payne’s record-breaking throw, Felder thought differently.

“She was already doing well last year,” he said. “One of the coaches last year told me she’s got to keep going. Once I saw her throw, I said, ‘We can make something out of this.’”

“I decided to see what I can do,” Payne said.

Maryville Junior High's Caroline Malone competes at the Blount County championships.

Maryville Junior High’s Caroline Malone competes at the Blount County championships.

Having Malone to compete against keeps it fun, she said. It’s not a rivalry, both say, as much as it is friends pushing each other to be their best.

“We have our own little competition,” Payne said. “We’ll go back and forth. It’s good to have somebody out there like that. We have good sportsmanship about it.”

Much like Payne, Malone, an accomplished swimmer and cheerleader, with a personal-best 77 feet, 3 inches in the discus, has tried her hand at more than one sport. As a seventh-grader last year she committed to track.

Malone and Payne both defy the norm for throwers in that neither is particularly super-sized. Both rely more on the technical aspects of the event.

“A lot of people when they hear discus they think you have to be a big, strong person,” Malone said. “When people find out I throw the discus, they say, ‘Really?’”

Payne’s approach to competition, tough but fair, is refreshing, she said.

“Whatever someone throws, she’ll always say, ‘Good throw,’” Malone said. “She always congratulates them and makes sure they feel good about it. She just makes it so much more fun.”

Where Payne and Malone have few challengers at the local level, Carter has few nationally.

With a personal best 161 feet, 4 inches in the discus — along with a whopping 54-8 in the shot put! — Carter is taking the national AAU circuit by storm. His throws in both disciplines rank among the top five in his age group nationwide.

Track and field at both the high school and middle school level really heats up as the weather warms. Stay tuned.

2016 Blount County Middle School Track and Field Championships
Event Champions

Sprints – Jayda Johnson, Alcoa Middle
Distance – Taylor West, Maryville Junior High
Field Events – Zoe Payne, Heritage Middle
Overall – Ariya Rice, Alcoa Middle

Sprints – Jacob Henneke, Maryville Junior High
Distance – Luke Avery, Maryville Junior High
Field Events – Dylan Carter, William Blount Middle
Overall – Sean Ward, Maryville Junior High

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