BROOKLET — The weather over the past few days has been anything but ideal for a track meet.
Today, the temperatures are predicted and the sun is set to shine — perfect conditions for what has become a longstanding event in the Brooklet community.
Eight schools from around the region will convene at Southeast Bulloch High School for the 11th annual Plankenhorn Invitational. Named after Derrick Plankenhorn, the event serves to celebrate and remember the life of the former SEB runner who passed away in 2003 while competing for the Yellow Jackets.
While the first few meets were met with overwhelming support from schools throughout the state, the real impact of this memorial event has become even more evident in the last few years.
“Derrick’s parents have always come out to watch the events,” SEB coach Jolie Britt said. “I think that we have kids now who never knew him. They might not quite grasp what is going on right now, but they always do after they’ve participated in the meet and met his parents.”
Southeast Bulloch has competed in just two meets this season — with one being shortened due to inclement weather. Now that the Jackets finally have a nice day in which to compete, Britt expects that the squad will put forth its usual great effort in the school’s marquee event.
“It’s been tough early on,” Britt said. “But overall, we’ve been pleased with the times and distances that we’ve seen out of everyone. Hopefully this will be another step forward for us.”
Both the boys and girls of Southeast Bulloch had solid showings last season. The boys made marked improvements across the board and sent a handful of individuals to the state meet while the Lady Jackets claimed a Region 1-AAA championship in their first season at the Class AAA level.
Star sprinter Bre Gates is gone this season, but the Jackets have plenty of weapons up their sleeves.
Jasmine Roberts has stepped into SEB’s top sprinter role and will serve as a key cog in the squad’s always-competitive relay teams. Philicia Batton came on strong in both track and field events last season and has looked just as dominant early on in 2014.
“(Roberts and Batton) can really do it all,” Britt said. “They’re work ethic and dedication is big for us. We also have plenty of younger girls who are ready to step up. We might have to search around to try and pull points from different places, but this can still be a strong team.”
Competition will commence with field events around 9:30 a.m. The field may be a bit smaller this season — due to competing meets in the area and SAT testing for many athletes — but Britt remarked that a light pace through a nice day full of top-notch competition is perfectly fitting of an event that is every bit as much about competing and achieving excellence as it is about celebrating the legacy of a fellow Jacket who would love to be out on the track.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.