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5th annual Plankenhorn to be run Saturday

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    Today in Brooklet, 14 track teams will arrive at Southeast Bulloch for what has become the biggest track and field event in this area.
    The 5th Annual Plankenhorn Invitational is today and will once again be ran with bittersweet memories of its namesake — former SEB track star Derrick.
    “It’s sad the reason why we have it — but we are proud that the school started this five years ago,” said Billie Jean Plankenhorn, mother of the late Derrick. “It just makes us glad.”
    On Wednesday, February 19, 2003, Derrick Plankenhorn went to track practice like he did on any other day. According to Statesboro Herald reports, Derrick collapsed during workouts around 5 p.m. and passed away moments later.
    Derrick placed fourth in state during his junior season and was a region champion in the 400-meters. He didn’t have a chance to defend his title during his senior year.
    In 2004, SEB coach Mike Sparks invited a few teams to Brooklet for the first ever Plankenhorn Invitational on a Friday afternoon. Five years later, the demand to compete in the event is so high the Yellow Jackets have had to turn teams away.
    “We hoped that it would (be this big),” said Billie Jean, recalling the first Invitational. “I can’t believe each year it just gets bigger and bigger.”
    Along with host SEB, Statesboro, Claxton (2007 defending girls champs), Jefferson County, St. Vincent’s, South Effingham, Portal, Bryan County, McIntosh County Academy, Brunswick, Effingham County and Emanuel County Institute are all penciled in to be represented today.
    “I really think we probably could have had 20 teams,” said SEB coach Jolie Britt, perhaps giving an indirect forecast for next year’s meet. “It’s just really grown that much and we appreciate it. We’ve got a great track and coach Sparks is always the one pushing the whole thing.”
    Trophies will be given to the winning teams and high-point scorers will be awarded as well. There will also be raffle tickets on sale to fund the event with chances to win $100 in cash from Farmers and Merchants Bank, a $50 gift certificate to Ken’s IGA, a $35 gift certificate from Brooklet Flower Basket and a Coca Cola beanbag chair.
    The event starts at 10 a.m.
    “The neat thing about it is everybody still remembers why we have it,” said Britt. “It’s about Derrick and his love for track.”
    Billie Jean agreed, adding her son, who friends called ‘Plank’, would love to see the event.
    “He was a humble child,” she said. “But he did like just a little bit of attention. He’d like this.”

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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