No matter what time of year it is, it’s probably track season for the M.L. King girls team.
In addition to the traditional spring high school season, most of the girls are on club track teams and see each other during outdoor club season in the summer as well as indoor season in the winter.
All that time together has helped form one of the top girls high school track teams in the state. The Lions, led by sprinters Felicia Brown and Jada Martin, won five running events last month at the Region 2-AAAAA track meet and have the fastest time in the state in two events.
“They’re with each other year-round,” M.L. King coach Brandi Bush said. “That decreases the amount of time we have to spend on things like conditioning, technique and exchanges.”
And it shows. Brown, a junior, has the top high school time in the state in any classification in the 400 meters with a season-best of 54.19 seconds. Her time is more than a half-second faster than any other runner in the state in that event. Brown and Martin are part of the Lions’ 4x100 relay team that has a state-best time of 46.34 seconds. Westlake, the second-fastest team, is nearly a second behind.
Martin, a sophomore, has the second-fastest all-classification time in the state in the 200 at 24.26 and the fastest time in Class AAAAA.
“The good thing about it is all of our kids are track girls,” Bush said. “We don’t have a lot of multi-sport athletes. They’re really motivated for track and they see a championship in their eyes and they’re going for it.”
Brown, outspoken with the talent to back it up, is the leader of the charge. She made a name for herself as a freshman on the varsity team and has improved every season. When she won the 400 at the Region 2-AAAAA meet last month with the fastest time in the state, she shaved 3.5 seconds off her winning time from the county meet two weeks earlier.
“My freshman year nobody liked me because I was fast,” Brown said. “Nobody wanted to practice with me, but as the year progressed, they started taking me in.”
Now, the group is like a family with one common goal. While Brown has owned the 400 at every meet this season, Martin has made the first-place podiums for 100 and 200 her own private property. Martin won both events at the county and region meets, and should be a contender for both at the state meet May 12-14 in Albany.
“We’ve all grown up running together and we’ve grown to like each other,” Martin said. “That will make a state championship that much sweeter. I came up behind Felicia and wanted to get to where she was.”
The competition between the two, and the rest of the team, has helped the Lions distance themselves from most of the other teams in the region and state. Despite placing second in the region meet, the team has its sights set on a state championship.
“We’re more focused on winning this year,” Brown said. “We didn’t lose anybody [to graduation]. Not winning region was a little disappointing, but people still know MLK is a good team.”
M.L. King’s girls have never won a state team title in track, but there have been individual champions. Tanisha Dyess won the 400 in 2007, and Ayesha Famble won the 800 in 2005 and 2006.
“Everybody wants everybody to get better,” Martin said. “I know we have high expectation to uphold.”