Main Street Preps

Northeast’s tradition of track and field excellence gets them back to 15th-straight Spring Fling

Koy’Reona Manning hands the baton to Ma’Kya Stinson. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

Tradition is everything.

And for the Northeast girls track and field squad, tradition is winning.

See what we’re getting at?

The Lady Eagles, under head coach Christina Webb, have made it to 15-straight Spring Flings, with this year being the most recent. Shaniya Davis placed 10th in the triple jump, and the girls 4×200 meter relay team – composed of Symphanie Browne, Koy’Reona Manning, Alijanae Cole and Ma’Kya Stinson – placed seventh.

And this is considered a down year for the Lady Eagles.

“This year may not be our strongest year, but they said they will not be the team to not continue that tradition and still make it to the state meet,” Webb said. “Some years I’ve had 10 events, this year I only have two events. But we’re going to make the best of those two events and grow each year after that, so we can come back with 10 and become a contender again for a state title.”

Webb first took over the program in 2003 before becoming an assistant coach at Austin Peay in 2006. She returned to Northeast in 2008, helping turn the track and field team into the Murfreesboro staple it’s become today.

The 2008 team only had 12 athletes, and there wasn’t much prior tradition of excellence.

“I’ve seen the program grow every single year and get better,” Webb said. “Sometimes we kind of regress a little bit just because of the cycle of a military type town, but overall, we have only tried to maintain and continue that tradition that we first set, probably, in ‘09.”

Since then, several Lady Eagles have made a name for themselves by earning state gold. Cierra Bowser won the long jump state title last year. Brittany Kelly is the main attraction, having earned back-to-back Gatorade Athlete of the Year awards in 2013 and 2014. She led Northeast to TSSAA AAA state titles along with eight individual titles before moving on to run at Ole Miss and LSU.

Alijanae Cole runs her leg of the relay race. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

But neither of them were superstars when they showed up.

“When everyone talks about Northeast, they talk about Brittany Kelly,” Webb said. “And we laugh about this all the time, especially when she’s here, she used to fall in the hallway every day. She would fall leading up to the first meet, I had no clue if she was going to be – she was athletic – but I didn’t think she was going to be the Brittany Kelly she became.

“You just never know. So instead of me kicking a kid to the side because you didn’t come out here as a stud, as a workhorse from the jump, you’ve got to be patient and develop.”

And so development has become a cornerstone of what Northeast does. Few of their athletes are runners or jumpers before joining the team, and with the school being one that gets families coming in and out via the Army, the roster changes yearly.

It all starts with an open mind. From there, Webb can make a runner out of you.

“Once they come out and you give them this confidence – that’s another thing about girls in general, but especially this generation – build their confidence and they can accomplish these things,” Webb said. “Then their willingness will take leaps and bounds for whatever you ask them to do.”

Just last year, Bowser had to forfeit her spot on the 4×100 relay team that was competing in Murfreesboro. Her replacement didn’t make it there on her own accord, but ended up competing anyway.

This year, that girl – Shaniya Davis – made it to Spring Fling with her own hard work and dedication.

Shaniya Davis flies through the air on her long jump attempt. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

It’s part of what makes the girls on Northeast’s team special.

That, and they get along – well.

“Especially with the relay we just ran, the chemistry between us was so good because we all genuinely are friends outside of the sport,” Stinson, who ran Thursday, said. “It makes it that much easier. When we’re handing it off to each other, we know each other, we know how each other runs, we know the pain level, we know, okay, this person’s going to be tired so don’t take off too quick, or this person might need a little more encouragement. Hanging out with each other outside of the sport makes it that much easier to have the chemistry on the track.”

The group also loves to dance.

After each of their events, they’ll group up and film TikToks using the latest dance trend, or even just make up their own. The common theme is that they’ll all get their chance to shine, but they glow brightest when they’re together.

“They really get along with each other,” Webb said. “They like to do their TikToks. They like to laugh with each other. They were boo-hooing like no other for senior night. I was like, are y’all for real? It’s like it was a death. They really enjoy being around each other, especially since we’re together so much of the year.”

They participated in more events at state than six other county teams, but for the standards they’ve set, they’re not satisfied with it. That’s why the team – and they are truly a team, not just a collection of athletes – will get right back to training on June 5.

They don’t have a track at the school, and the county doesn’t sponsor middle school programs. Most of the girls don’t participate in pay-to-play programs before high school. So they get to work and stay at it year round.

It’s just another reason why they’ve set the standard and will continue to raise it. Webb even made a promise:

“We’re going to come back stronger than ever next year. Watch out.”