Slinging for the fences

Borden, Smith, Rose portend big year for discus

The prom was the last straw.

William Blount’s staging of the spring extravaganza was last Saturday, the same day Lady Governor junior Madison Borden was scheduled to compete in the prestigious Volunteer Track Classic at the University of Tennessee’s Tom Black Track.

Borden, a champion discus thrower since her youth days on the AAU circuit, had to miss the meet for prom. Coming on the heels of week that included cheerleading tryouts, it was just too much.

Frustrated, Borden vented in a big way on Monday, claiming her third consecutive county championship in dramatic fashion in the process. Throwing the discus a new school record 125 feet, 11 inches at the Blount County Track and Field Championships, Borden edged rival Erica Rose of Heritage for the title.

It wasn’t so much the winning throw that made it a great day, said Borden, who also won the girls discus on Monday at the Maryville Middle track. It’s the consistency she displayed in doing so that made all the difference.

“I’ve never thrown 120 in a meet,” she said. “The week before I’d been distracted with (cheerleading) tryouts, (missing) the Vol Classic and the prom.”

Borden said she knew something good might be in the offing when her first two throws but sailed beyond 123 feet.

“I knew the first one was good,” she said.

When she let fly her third and final throw, Borden said she could feel it was something special.

“That’s the great thing about it is she’s starting to get some real consistency in her throws,” William Blount coach Chris Frary said, “in both the discus and the shot.”

A little something extra is much in keeping with county discus throwers this season. Borden got the upper hand Monday, but Rose is sure to be heard from again before the spring is out. The Lady Mountaineer senior and Austin-Peay signee already owns the Heritage record with a toss of 127-5, set during last year’s regional meet.

“Honestly, it was awesome because I broke the school record and went to the state meet,” Rose said, “all in the same year.”

And then there’s the season Maryville junior Justin Smith is delivering.

In his first full season throwing the discus, Smith, who also won the boys shot put, uncorked winning throw of 130-8 to claim the county crown. Not bad for a football standout, who, after spending the spring with the baseball Rebels his first two years in high school, switched to track and field this year to allow a gridiron injury time to heal.

Thing is, Maryville coach Mac Pickle said, Smith is only scratching the surface.

“He said, ‘I’m taking aim at the school record,’” Pickle said. “He may not get there this year, but I wouldn’t bet against him.”

The season started modestly enough, Smith said. Then came the Oak Ridge Relays earlier this month. With the Maryville’s top discus thrower, junior Marcus Engelhardt, out injured, Pickle said he was only hoping Smith would have a good day and score some points for the Rebels.

“He comes over and he’s just beaming,” Pickle said. “He said, ‘Guess what?’

“He has this big Cheshire cat smile on his face.”

Smith then informed his coach he’d won the discus, with a throw of 133-11 that turned heads.

“His reaction was, ‘Wow!’” Smith said. “He was kind of speechless. He was pretty excited.”

The highly-touted football prospect has only gotten better and better since.

“He’s just on a roll,” Pickle said. “He’s just feeling it.”

Pickle likens the key to Smith’s rapid rise to a golfer improving his putting. There are not shortcuts.

“You cannot throw the discus enough,” Pickle said. “It’s kind of like putting, and putting and putting, and he’s hit that groove.”

So have Rose and Borden, with the former’s ascension following much the same meteoric curve as Smith.

Like Smith, Rose didn’t approach the discus with a full-time commitment until her junior season. An all-county basketball selection, the Lady Mountaineer standout had always had the athleticism. As last year’s region meet neared, Rose said Heritage assistant coach Mark Rowen intensified her workouts. The payoff would prove stunning, even to Rose.

“It didn’t hit me until region,” she said. “My first throw was 125, and my mouth hung open.”

The throw sent Rose on to the state meet, where she caught the eye of the Austin-Peay coaching staff. Earlier this month, the Lady Governors inked Rose to a National Letter of Intent.

“My heart was pumping (while signing the letter of intent),” she said. “It was racing. It was great for my whole family.”

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