By TREY WILLIAMS
When he was a young boy, Eli Penix enjoyed throwing big rocks in creeks.
Last week, he made a splash in Murfreesboro by shattering Daniel Boone records while winning two state championships.
Penix, a junior, set school records while winning state titles in the shot put (57-9 1/2) and discus (164-4). The Boone boys’ 4×800 Relay team – juniors Levi Streeval and Conner Wingfield, senior Evan Bruce and freshman Luke Mussard — also set a school record while winning a state title.
“Winning the state championship in shot put and discus were the most emotional victories I have ever had as well as the most rewarding,” Penix said. “All the long nights in the circle, the technical cues, the reps in the gym, the research, and sacrifices paid off in this one moment. None of this would have been possible without the extreme support of my throwing coach, also being my father (Chad), Coach (Len) Jeffers, Coach Ray (Jones) and my mother (Amy).”
Penix’s father, he says, was always supportive and inspirational.
“From the beginning, my dad always encouraged me to be active and try different sports,” Penix said. “I could always remember as a kid always trying to find something to throw for the enjoyment like throwing a big rock in a creek. Later in middle school my dad encouraged me to throw, knowing the basis of my passions in throwing.”
Penix struggled during the season to perform in meets the way he was throwing in practice.
“There were little technical cues that I was not executing at the time that hurt my confidence through the beginning to middle part of the season,” he said. “But with the Sectional meet and the State meet, I had finally approached this meet with confidence and the only concern was in my ability to do what I came to do, and not worrying about the competition. The entire meet had almost no stress at all because of the execution of big openers in the shot put and discus.
“I had never had a rewarding victory quite like this one. It was not the medals, it was knowing what went into this victory and the support system I had behind me that allowed me to do what I enjoy.”
Coach Jeffers spearheads the passionate support system.“Coach Jeffers seeks the full potential in his athletes with immense support,” Penix said. “You can truly see the passion and care he has for our athletes and the sport as well. Understanding his passion for track leads you to why Daniel Boone’s Track team has had this much success.”
Penix broke his own school record in the discus. The shot mark eclipsed the previous school record of 56-7 ¼ set in 2002 by the late Ben Williams, who also won the state title in the shot.
“Eli has really spent the time with his coach, who is also his dad,” Jeffers said, “in breaking down video and working to tweak even the slightest of technical aspects in his approach and throws.”
Jeffers noted being especially happy for the seniors who missed out on their junior season due to the pandemic.
The Trailblazers boys team finished fifth in the team standings with 38 points despite having only five athletes in the meet.
“I’m so proud of our student-athletes for the way they handled the season and the preparation going into the State Championships,” Jeffers said. “It was very rewarding to watch their time, dedication and commitment pay off and for them to reach their goals and be at their best when it mattered most.”
The 4×800 relay didn’t lack for excitement.
“It was both exciting and nerve-racking as it developed into a four-team race early on with three of those teams still locked up until the final 100 meters,” Jeffers said. “We were able to pull out the victory in the last 20 meters and they ran a new school record time of 7:53.38. Several times the lead changed hands but each relay member stayed focused and remained composed, doing what they needed to do and keeping us in the mix until the final stretch.”
Wingfield recharged after the 4×800 title to finish second in the 3,200 to Lebanon’s Aiden Britt.
“Conner Wingfield went up against one of the top distance runners in the state in the 3,200 meter run, a senior who had also won the state cross country title in November,” Jeffers said. “Conner ran a great race and stayed step for step with him until the final 100 meters, finishing as state runner-up, another all-state honor and a new personal best time of 9:08.76, the fourth-best time in school history.”
The 4×800 victory wouldn’t have been possible, Jeffers said, without the work of alternate Carson Sells.
“He deserves so much credit for us being there in the first place,” Jeffers said. “With one boy sidelined the past few weeks with an injury, it was Carson who stepped in and ran at Sections to help the team advance and get to the state meet.”
The girls finished third in the 4×800 Relay (sophomore Kamryn Wingfield, Seniors Patricia Chellah and Nicole Griffith, junior Alysse Rowland and alternate Ella Battel).
“This was Patricia’s second trip to the state track meet and her second All-State honor,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers noted the exceptional support provided by staff, parents and fans.
“It was great to have our principal Tim Campbell, athletic director Danny Good and trainer Craig Moorhouse there in attendance to watch and support,” Jeffers said. “Words cannot describe how proud I am and how much respect I have for these teams and our student-athletes. They are coachable, they listen, they train smart, but above all else, they were unselfish and very supportive of their teammates. They are equally as impressive in the classroom where most carry a 4.0 or above GPA.
“I so much appreciate our coaching staff of Ray Jones and James Garst (distances), Chad Penix (throws) and Christian Stumpf (sprints and jumps) for their passion and the time they put in to teaching and developing our young women and young men to become the best that they can, both on and off the field.”
The Daniel Boone softball team also advanced to the state tournament, where its 0-2 showing ended with a heartbreaking, nine-inning loss to Siegel.
Emma Robinette’s home run had tied the score, 1-1, in the top of the fourth and Savannah Jessee’s two-out home run had given the ‘Blazers a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth.
Hard-luck loser Suzie Chatman went the distance in the circle for Boone. She allowed nine hits and three walks.
The ‘Blazers (34-13), which set a program record for home runs this season, lost their opener in Murfreesboro by a 5-2 count to Summit.
Brylee Mesusan and Maci Masters scored for Boone. Camryn Sarvis and Jessee provided the RBIs.
Maggie Hillman pitched in the opener, allowing seven hits and five runs while walking four and striking out three.