Gatorade Athlete of the Year

Chaney secures state’s top honor for track and field

Jordan Chaney strides into the first turn in the 1600 meters at the Spring Fling track and field championships.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Jordan Chaney strides into the first turn in the 1600 meters at the Spring Fling track and field championships.

Jordan Chaney gave the 400 meters three years.

He gave track and field even longer.

For his senior season at Maryville High School this spring, the University of Tennessee signee shifted gears to cross country, the 800 and the mile. The end result proved fantastic stuff, with the former Rebel on Tuesday scoring an historic first for Maryville in being named the Gatorade Tennessee Boys’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year for the 2008-09 season.

“What a great story for Jordan,” said former Rebel coach Mac Pickle, now head coach at Morristown West. “He smashed the school record in the 800 in the Vol Classic and then obliterated the mark at state. It couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow. It couldn’t happen to a harder worker.”

Chaney is away on a camping trip in Virginia this week and was unavailable for comment at press time for Blount Today on Wednesday.

The future Vol won the 1600-meter run at the Spring Fling state meet, finishing second in the 800, to merit selection as the state’s top athlete for boys’ track and field regardless of classification. Chaney’s winning time of 4 minutes, 13.19 seconds in the 1600 eclipsed the school record for the event, then held by Rebel teammate and rising senior Clint McKelvey, who finished third in the race.

Cordova’s Leoman Momoh and Chaney finished in photo finish - 1:51.81 and 1:51.83, respectively - in the 800, the times among the fastest for prep boys nationally this season.

Chaney’s 800 time is an all-time Maryville best as well.

The Tennessee honor places Chaney’s name in consideration for Gatorade’s national track and field athlete of the year, to be announced later this month.

The decorated finish to his high school career came after more than a few years of frustration for the one-time sprinter. Chaney went out for the team at Maryville Middle School as a seventh-grader but wasn’t selected for the competitive squad that traveled to meets. His first three seasons at Maryville High he focused on the 400, reaching the state meet for the first time as a sophomore as part of the school’s 4x800 relay.

“He was knocking on the door in the 400,” Pickle said, “and he was always in the eighth spot or the ninth spot at sectionals.”

Only the top four finishers at the sectional meet qualify for state. With only a year remaining in his high school career, Chaney made his move.

“He was kind of burned out in the 400,” McKelvey said, “and he wasn’t having a lot of success.”

Always close in the 400, Chaney began laying plans for a switch for his senior season. Last fall, he joined the cross country team, a whirlwind campaign concluding with an eighth-place finish at state and an All-State selection.

“This year, he decided he would go ahead and run cross country, and he finished eighth in the state,” Pickle said. “The cross country made a huge difference.”

Chaney’s decision to move to the 800 and the mile came during the indoor season with his club team. His experience in the 400 had given him a fierce finishing kick. His workouts turned serious. By spring, the change was producing results.

“He said, ‘Hey, I could be good at this,’” McKelvey said.

An indicator of just what kind of pace Chaney was on this spring came when he edged McKelvey in an epic duel at the William Blount Invitational to set the school mark in the mile.

“Set the school record for the mile in a race with Clint!” Pickle said.

McKelvey made school history at last month’s state meet, his win at 3200 meters making him the first Rebel to secure a state title in a running event. Chaney would win the mile later in the day.

McKelvey, who finished second at the cross country state meet, was a finalist along with Chaney for the Gatorade award.

“I’ve never had an athlete be nominated for the Gatorade athlete of the year,” Pickle said, “and I had two of them!”

McKelvey, nationally ranked and the school record holder at 3200 meters, is on deck.

“I can’t come back with the goal of just to win,” he said. “That’s not going to be enough.”

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