Spring Fling: Hurdler leads MLK to A-AA track title

Friday, May 22, 2009 at 11:34pm

MURFREESBORO – Things did not exactly go as planned for Ben Tankard. They went even better.

The junior at Martin Luther King swept the Class A-AA 110 and 300-meter hurdles Friday at the TSSAA State Championships.

“(A win in the) 110 was the plan, but the 300 … it’s been me and Station Camp’s (Corey Alexander) since Day One,” Tankard said. “I’d beat him and he’d beat me, back and forth. … I came off the curve first, so I kept my knees up and told my arms to keep going.

“It’s not about who’s the strongest, it’s about who has the most heart. Who wanted it the baddest.”

It was actually Trezevant’s Willie Mason Jr., not Alexander, who was his closest pursuer.

Tankard is a student at Nashville School for the Arts who competes for MLK as part of a TSSAA-sanctioned co-operative program for schools that don’t have enough athletes to field teams on their own.

He did not compete at the high school level the last two years, but chose instead to focus on AAU meets.

“Everybody’s talking about, ‘Where’d he come from? I haven’t heard of him,’” Tankard said. “I decided just to go ahead and wait and surprise everybody. It’s better to come two years strong than to come second or third freshman and sophomore year.”

Not only did he finish first twice, his efforts went a long way toward helping MLK win the team title, the only one by a Middle Tennessee school at this year’s meet.

Personally, Tankard accounted for more than half of his team’s 50 points, which was two more than runner-up David Lipscomb, which got an unlikely boost from Zach Rogers, who played baseball this spring but became available after that team was eliminated from the state tournament on Thursday.

Rogers was the only individual to beat Tankard on this day. He successfully defended one of his 2008 titles when won the A-AA long jump with the benefit of very little practice time or competition this spring. Tankard was second.

“It was fun to come here to the track and to go out on top,” Rogers, a University of Tennessee football signee, said. “… I was fortunate enough to come out here (Friday) and to have an awesome baseball team at the same time. I feel very fortunate.”

Tankard felt exactly the same way.

“I have two gold medals,” he said. “I got second to Zach Rogers in the long jump and he’s the best long jumper in Tennessee, so I can’t be mad about that. I would have loved to win, but I was up there with him.”

And other than that, he was on top.

Other local state champions:

• Vanderbilt football signee Wesley Tate, of Pope John Paul II, won the D-II high jump (6-6) and 100 (10.82).

• Christ Presbyterian Academy senior Ryan Cook won the A-AA pole vault at 15 feet, two and a half feet higher than the runner-up.

• David Lipscomb junior Chris Safley won the A-AA discus (142-5).

• Brentwood Academy sophomore Victor Caro won the D-II long jump (21-9 ¼).

• Brentwood Academy sophomore Bryson Lillard won the D-II 110 hurdles (14.81) and the 300 hurdles (40.11).

• Centennial won the AAA 4x100 relay (41.83) by ,01 seconds over Hunters Lane (41.84).

• Ensworth won the D-II 4x800 relay (8:13.24).

• Goodpasture senior Benjamin Cunningham won the A-AA 100 (10.60).

• Centennial senior Raymond Jackson won the AAA 100 (10.65).