Lady Tigers’ Long wins state middle school 200 meters title
Early in the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” the race team driver walks off during a pit stop in the middle of the race to get something to eat. That leads pit crew chief Lucius Washington to ask, “Is there anyone who wants to go fast?”
Ricky Bobby jumped at the chance.
Ironton Middle School coach Kevin Richardson asked the same question, and McKenzie Long was quick to answer.
With her legs.
Long blistered her way on the track this past season including Saturday, May 25, at the 10th annual Middle School Track and Field Championships held at Dublin High School as she captured the 200-meter dash state championship.
“Kenzie has run the 100, 200 and 400 races all season. She is one of the most mentally-tough and well-conditioned athletes that I or coach (Amy) Perry has ever coached at the middle school level,” said Richardson.
Long had been undefeated during her middle school career in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes until the state meet. She has posted times of 12.1, 12.4, 12.5 and 12.8 consistently throughout her career.
In fact, her time in the state finals was the slowest of her career.
During her career, the eighth-grade sprinter set records in those three races, eclipsing the records formerly held by Mandi Boykin who went on to win a state championship in the 100 meters her senior year.
Long set records by running a 12.1 seconds in the 100 meters, 26.4 in the 200 and 1:00.8 in the 400. She won meet high-point awards in nearly every meet she competed.
At the state meet, Long ran a 12.82 in the preliminaries — the best time of the day. However, she ran a 13.21 in the finals and was second to Mia Knight of Beachwood who ran a 13.19.
“It kind of made me nervous (to run in the state meet). I didn’t know how fast they were, but afterwards I found out I can eventually beat them,” said Long.
And she did.
The state meet was an adjustment for Long since most middle school track athletes do not usually run preliminaries. Long also ran in three events that were scheduled very close to each other.
Long ran a 27.16 in the 200 prelims for the fourth-best time overall, but she redeemed herself by scorching the finals with a 26.87 time to win the 200-meter dash state title.
Dynesty Ervin of Labra Middle School was second at 27.2.
“I really wanted to win the 200-meter dash,” said Long. “After the break I had, I knew I could win. It was fabulous. After being worn out, I was impressed.”
During her career, Long also posted 200-meter times of 26.6, 26.7 and 27.0 seconds as well as 1:03 and 1:05 in the 400.
Long said she got interested in track during the annual Field Day events. She also has two brothers who run track including Ironton freshman Isaiah Long.
“I started to get interested in track when I was in the fifth grade and I watched some meets because of my brothers,” said Long.