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Top 10 of 2021: No. 3 - WCHS track shatters records, sends 5 to state

Welcome to the Warren County Sports Authority Top 10 of 2021. Each day until Dec. 31, we will be releasing a new story counting down the top 10 sports stories in Warren County this year. Be sure to check back everyday to see the biggest headlines from this year!

No. 3A – WCHS track smashes records, sends five to state

The track records have been on display in Charlie Dalton Gym for decades, largely going untouched as current Pioneers and Lady Pioneers tried their best to live up to the past. In 2021, the board needed a major facelift.

The WCHS track teams rewrote the records books, setting nine new school records (six invidual, three relays). Having so many standouts helped Warren County be represented throughout the postseason, including five girls making it all the way to the state tournament. One Lady Pioneer – Ally Beneke – was still standing at the end of the year, earning a state medal in the long jump.

Beneke was one of four females to set individual school records for the Lady Pioneers during 2021. A sophomore high jumper from DeKalb County (DC doesn’t have a track team, so their athletes joined Warren County this season), Beneke didn’t waste time becoming a memorable Warren County athlete.

In one of the first meets of the season, Beneke was able to break a school record that had stood for 19 years. Clearing a 5-foot-2 bar in Cookeville, Beneke was able to top Linsey Cornelius’ school-best 5-foot jump back in 2002.

Beneke proved to be one of the state’s best all year, even resetting her own record at 5-foot-4 in subsectionals – an event she won. She went on to finish fourth in the state, tying her school record along the way.

Freshman Ella VanVranken did the most rewriting of the records for Warren County, making sure any 800 or 1600 time was written in pencil, not pen. She completely erased the old records early – ones that had stood for 25 and 24 years, respectively – and kept setting new bests throughout the year.

Another standout athlete from Smithville, VanVranken had an instant impact for the Lady Pioneers. She completely shattered the 800 record (previously held by Lorien Young, 1997) and 1600 (Jamie Caten, 1996) in the first meets. By the end of the year, she had broken her own time in the 800 again and reset the 1600 mark three different times.

Her speed earned her three separate bids into the state tournament (800, 1600 and as a member of the 4x400 relay). At state, she ran her fastest time ever in the 800, finishing in 2:21.93 – over six seconds faster than the previous school record.

Her best 1600 time was 5:15.50 – 32 seconds faster than Caten’s school record – and was set at substate. She finished in the top 10 in both individual events at the state tournament.

The 400 records were also not safe this year, on both sides. Katie Toney and DeVans Lewis became the new school record holders in the event, with Toney eclipsing Alicia Hunter’s 1:05.4 time (set in 1996) three separate times in the postseason. Toney’s best time came at sectionals, where she blazed a 1:03.65 time.

Lewis set the boys record, previously held by Christian Locke (2016), at subsectionals. He became the first runner in Warren County history to finish the 400 in under 53 seconds, clocking a time of 52.81 seconds to break the record.

The sixth individual record to fall was a family tradition. Kyra Perkins joined her brother Jayren and father Alan on the school record board by eclipsing the school mark in the long jump. Perkins soared through the air at sectionals, setting the record with a leap of 16 feet, 0.5 inches.

School records were also set in the girls 4x200 (Lexi Smartt, Ally Beneke, Savannah Winfree and Kyra Perkins), girls 4x400 (Madalyn Stubblefield, Katie Toney, Cadee Griffith and Ella Van Vranken) and boys 4x200 relays (Alex Castaneda, Julian Martinez, Uriah King and Donathan Lewis).

The girls 4x800 team of Toney, VanVranken, Griffith and Emma Randall also represented Warren County at the state tournament, running an individual-best time of 10:30.18 at substate (breaking their own PR by over 10 seconds) to qualify. They were disqualified at state due to a baton-passing violation in the 16-team race.

While many of old school records stood for two decades, don’t expect the new records to last long. With VanVranken, Beneke, Toney and Perkins all eligible to be back this spring – as well as a number for the top relay runners – the WCHS track team could be even better in 2022.

Make sure to check back Thursday, Dec. 30 to see the No. 2 story on the WCSA Top 10 Sports List of 2021

No. 4 – Ike Gillentine earns state medal in wrestling:

No. 5 – Lauren Slatton finishes sixth at state, wins district:

No. 6 – Pioneers win district regular season baseball title:

No. 7 – COVID shuts down Pioneer football, causing the first game cancellations in school history:

No. 8 – Covenant’s year of championships:

No. 9 – Boyd’s special year:

No. 10 – WC Sports Hall of Fame adds 13 members:

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