By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MURFREESBORO – In almost 20 years of guiding the Munford Cougar Track program, Head Coach Bernard Ivie has seen the format change at the State Track meet a few times.
In 18 seasons, he has guided at least one athlete to the final meet of the year 16 times. In 2018, Ivie and the staff of Thomas Walters, Johnny Zueiate and Donny Kelly have helped senior Blake Johnson and sophomore Ciara Potter reach Murfreesboro.
Last Thursday the Munford duo arrived early in the morning along with several other athletes for the Large Class Track & Field Championships. In years past the private schools, Class A-AA and Class AAA schools competed with boys and girls on separate days.
This year boys and girls from each division took to the Dean A. Hayes Stadium track and field on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. This year’s State meets were broken into Small Class and Large Class.
“What we do at Munford High School is real simple, all my life I’ve had a great relationship with kids,” Ivie said. “I love them. In 46 years, I still enjoy my job. I enjoy being around the kids and the kids like to compete for me.
“What I do is take kids nobody else really recruits,” he continued. “If you want a kid, start like I do with them as a ninth grader.”
Ivie and staff groomed Johnson into one of the best athletes in Tennessee. The senior made history as the first Cougar to compete in the Tennessee Decathlon earlier this month.
“Blake ended up out of the whole state of Tennessee finishing ninth,” Ivie said. “He was off the podium by four-hundredths of a point. I hated it for him but in 10 events he got his career best in all 10 of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more from that young man.”
Johnson reached State for the Triple Jump. As he competed in that event, Potter was busy in the sand pit feet away in the Long Jump. Potter also participated in the girls’ Triple Jump last week.
“We have a real good future,” Ivie said. “We’ll have some kids back there at Munford who will be right there at the top battling for these spots next year.”
Potter will enter her junior season already as one of the best in Lady Cougar history. She competes in multiple events and has broken the school long jump record once held by State champion Crystal Williams. Williams won her crown in the Triple Jump back in 2010. She also jumped more than 18 feet in the long jump, only bested by Potter.
“When you can say you broke Crystal Williams’ record, that’s a real accomplishment,” Ivie said. “She should be here in High Jump but due to funds, we didn’t have an approach area at Munford High School. She had to run off a little field, down a hill and off the track.
“But Dr. Courtney Fee is going to take care of that for us next year,” he added. “She’s getting us an entirely new high jump area. We’re working on that next Tuesday.”
While the future is bright for Munford Track with facilities and athletes, Ivie said the program was strengthen by the dedication of athletes like Johnson.
“In Memphis they call him The Professor of Track,” he said. “He definitely doesn’t look like a decathlete. He looks more like a professor. He is one of those guys who is very smart athletically. Instead of using all of the muscle, speed and strength he doesn’t have, he uses his brain.
“When I say something, it’s almost like talking to a recorder,” Ivie added. “He records it in his brain and then goes back to practice it.”
Ivie said athletes like Johnson have been placed in a tougher situation with the new breakdown. In all his years of coaching, he wants to see each student/athlete get a fair chance to reach the biggest stage.
“Without God and the kids, I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “We have wonderful kids and wonderful administration at Munford High School. We haven’t got to the point to where we can get Tipton County to spend money on track.
“We have six classifications in football and only three in track,” Ivie concluded. “It’s a travesty to all the kids in Tennessee – boys and girls that the state of Tennessee cares so little about anything except football.”
Potter finished 13th in the Long Jump with a leap of 16-07.25. The State champion was Avery McMullen of Centennial with an attempt of 19-03. Potter did reach the medal stand in the Triple Jump with a 34-11 leap, good enough to take eighth.
Maryville’s Georgie McDevitt took first place in the Triple Jump with 37-03.
Johnson was able to close out his standout Munford career with a medal taking eighth in the Triple Jump with a leap of 43-05. The State champion in the Triple Jump was Courtney Thomas of Memphis Central with an attempt of 47-03.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.