By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
W’PORT — Hank Williams Jr. sings about “Family Tradition,” but Athens sophomore Benny Gambrell is living it.
Gambrell became the fourth sibling in his family to qualify for the PIAA Track & Field Championships here Thursday night at the District 4 Championships. He’s the third sibling to qualify for States in the long jump.
“There’s nothing like, it’s a great feeling,” said Benny Gambrell. “It’s a great feeling to know we’ve all been to States. I love my family.”
Benny Gambrell finished second with a leap of 21-feet, 11-inches, which also tops the state standard — 18 1/2-inches behind Southern Columbia junior Julian Fleming, who claimed gold with a mark of 22-feet, 5 1/2-inches.
Benny Gambrell said he didn’t get caught up in competing against Fleming, who is one of most-highly recruited wide receivers in the nation.
“I was just focused on me, I wasn’t worried about anyone else. I just wanted to get my numbers out there — and whatever happens, happens.
“We got the mark in, and I’m going to States. I’m happy with that,” he added.
Benny Gambrell said he’ll take the same approach next weekend at States.
“My mindset is just to focus on me, and not have a lot of distractions. I just want to get my numbers out there and see what happens.”
“I’m happy with his performance,” said Ben Gambrell, Benny’s coach and father.
“He wasn’t intimidated by any means. Actually, all he wanted to do was beat him, but that’s his competitive nature.
“Now, he has another week to compete,” Ben Gambrell added.
Ben Gambrell was pleased with his team’s performance Thursday.
“Day 1 was a good day,” he said. “We had a lot of good things happen today, between Benny (Gambrell) punching his ticket to States, Damian (Hudson) sitting in a good spot in the 100, and both our guys in the javelin hitting PRs.”
Junior Damian Hudson qualified for 100-meter dash finals, running the third-fastest time in the semifinals, clocking in at 11.32 seconds. Hudson ran the second-fastest time — 11.26 seconds — in the preliminaries.
Gambrell and Hudson were both slated to run in the 200-meter dash preliminaries at the end of Thursday night’s session, but the automatic timing systems malfunctioned and the event will now be a timed-final on Saturday.
Athens sophomore Asher Ellis finished ninth in the javelin with a personal-best throw of 144-feet, 7-inches and junior Carson Stanfield was 20th with a personal-best toss of 136-feet, 4-inches.
The foursome of Brendan Jones, John Ayres, Connor Dahl, and Kyle Anthony finished 17th in the 3,200-meter relay in a time of 9:23.8.
Action resumes Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
IN PHOTO 1: Athens sophomore Benny Gambrell. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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