Going from one of the strongest teams they have coached, according to Athens Bible Trojans track assistant coach Tory Wiles, to a team with four kids on it, has been unique to say the least. What was a 10 person team with six seniors last year now is made up of one senior, a sophomore, an eighth grader and a seventh grader. Still, of the four on this 2021 team, three have advanced to the state’s 1A track meet this weekend in Cullman.
Jolie Green, the lone senior, is in her first year on the ABS track & field team. In just her first and only season, she has finished at the front of every 1600-meter and 800-meter race she has been a part of and has qualified for state meet in both events.
She comes from a tennis and cross-country background, but is grateful that she made the decision to be a part of this team.
“Being at a small school like this, a lot of us play a bunch of different sports. I have been playing tennis for a while now and I was mainly just focused on that,” Green said. “But this year I heard about practice going on in January and I texted Coach Bradford and told him I want to try it. It’s my senior year, and I figured why not do it? I loved cross-country, I love running, and I knew I could find a place in track.”
Being the only senior, Green has found it comes with leadership role and it’s one she takes pride in even if it’s not entirely comfortable.
“I give input and they listen, I guess,” she said. “I don’t like being bossy, though.”
Green will be attending Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee in the fall. She has received an offer to run cross-country, but she has yet to make a final decision.
Jack Bradford, a sophomore, set sectional records in the 1600-meter and 800-meter at Fort Payne this year in just his second season.
“Last season getting cancelled really stung having such a good season, but as far as this season, it has just been really awesome,” he said. “Running a lot last summer with my sister for cross-country, conditioning all before track, weight workouts in the morning have all really helped me. It has all been awesome as a whole this season.”
Jack is also the son of head coach Billy Bradford.
“It’s really nice having my dad as the coach,” Jack Bradford said.
Meredith Romans, just a seventh grader, plays volleyball, basketball, softball and track. In just her first season on the track team, she has had a ton of success. She has already become the sectional champion in both shot-put and discus. She attributes her success to the ones she looks up to.
“My cousin threw and did track as well. She threw shot-put and discus, so I look up to her,” Romans said. “Coach Tory has helped me through a lot and I think my success is mostly because of him.”
The fourth member of the team, Jonathan Barnes, is just in eighth grade, and according to Wiles, is an up and coming star in the javelin and 800-meter.
Heading into this season, with just four members on the team, the coaches knew they had a lot of talent in this small group, but they’d be lying if they said they expected this level of excellence.
“We had concerns that we were even going to a track meet this year, let alone do as well as we have,” Wiles said. “Just the fact that we have four members that are so successful as they are, to me, that was the goal just getting to that point.”
Billy Bradford feels the same way and couldn’t be more proud of this team.
“We knew these kids and we knew they were quality kids. I always have confidence that they’re going to do well and they will always put their best on the line,” Billy Bradford said. “But the level of success is always a little bit of a surprise, but you also know that these kids are capable of it. I’m happy to see they’re able to reach that level of success.”
This four member team is a very tight group even with the differences in age. Through it all, it’s become less of a team and more of a family.
“I feel like we have a family,” Romans said. “Even though I haven’t been in this type of grouping before with the very spaced out age groups, I feel like I have become very close with these people and I’m glad for it.”
This team has four members. From the outside looking in, one might say this team is special just for that reason alone. But it’s so much more than that to them from the camaraderie, the dedication to the sport, to having multiple people going to state and each member of the team setting personal records.
“These kids are awesome,” Billy Bradford said. “They’re so unique in that not everyone likes to get up at 5 a.m. and come in here to practice. There might only be four of them who do. But just to see them do well is a thrill and I’m honored to be a part of that.”