BROOKLET — For the last seven years, track and field programs from all over the state have flocked to Southeast Bulloch to compete in the Plankenhorn Invitational. The event — which commemorates the life of Derrick Plankenhorn, an SEB runner who passed away February 19, 2003 — has become one of the most recognized in the state and will have a few changes in its eighth year.
The biggest difference at this year’s Plankenhorn is the setting.
Southeast Bulloch High School has hosted the invitational in every year since its inception, but this season, the meet moves to the campus of Georgia Southern University.
Plans to move the location were made last season when the Bulloch County Board of Education began working on plans to renovate the track and field complex at SEB. The meet likely will move back to Brooklet upon the completion of the new facility.
For the first time in the history of the meet, seven middle schools will bring competitors as they join the 15 boys and 14 girls varsity programs.
“We think that this is a great way to get the younger kids really excited about track and field,” said SEB coach Jolie Britt. “A lot of times, these middle school teams will only get to compete in three or four-team meets and everything is pretty local. This should be a good experience.”
Britt also hopes that this weekend will better prepare middle-schoolers — some of whom might be competing for the Yellow Jackets in the upcoming years — for what to expect at the next level.
“It will be good for them to get a taste of what big competitions are like,” said Britt. “It can be a different atmosphere, and it’s good to get that experience.”
Experience is the biggest new weapon for the SEB girls.
Last season, the Lady Jackets performed well in the Plankenhorn and sent seven freshmen to the state competition. This year, all have returned and are already surpassing last season’s accomplishments.
The girls have tied the SEB school record in the 4x100 relay and have posted a new high mark in the triple jump. Another big setting might be just what they need to keep improving.
“We’ve been traveling more and finding good competition,” said Britt. “With another year of experience and all of the hard work that they put in, our girls should be pretty tough.”
The SEB boys have also had a strong showing this season with Terrell Thompson posting good marks in the long jump and short distance races while brothers David and Jamal Johnson have spent the season one-upping each other in the shot put and discus competitions.
The Plankenhorn Invitational begins at 9 a.m. with the high school field meets running concurrently with the middle school track races.
“It should be a great day,” said Brit. “The weather will be nice and there will be a lot of talented athletes out there. Anybody in Statesboro should come and check it out.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.