Augusta Christian track coaches Charles Cooper and Keith Walton know they might not have the numbers to compete with some of the top teams at the upcoming SCISA Class AAA meet Saturday. But, as in past years, the Lions have some individuals who could be in the running for best in the state.
Senior William Banks, who won the 200 meter and triple jump last year as a junior, is back to defend his titles and try to add wins in the 100 meter and long jump.
Sophomore Stephanie Cippalone has yet to lose in the 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter and 4x400-meter relay.
Banks is closing out his high-school career as a three-sport standout. In addition to track, he's a leader on the Lions baseball team, which started state playoffs this week. And he was a versatile athlete on coach Bruce Lane's football team, playing quarterback, wide receiver and running back.
Banks will start classes at Georgia Southern in June and will play football for the Eagles as a preferred walk-on.
He said he was looking forward to focusing on one sport.
"It's been fun," Banks said. "But you got to have a lot of energy to go out and basically all year train for three different sports."
Cooper and Walton said they have worked with baseball coach Craig Johnson to ensure Banks doesn't overdo it and risk injury. Banks has stayed healthy and excelled at both, despite limited opportunity on the track.
Banks said most of his practice for jumps happens at the meets. The Lions have access to Westside High School's track once a week, but do most of their work on Augusta Christian's football field.
Banks ran personal bests in the 100 and 200 this year. His 22.4 in the 200 set a school record.
"If he does what he should do, he has a really good shot at being state athlete of the year," Cooper said.
Coaches expect the same from Cippalone.
She runs cross country in the fall and, prior to this season, had run distance events in addition to sprints. The two require different training. Walton said Cippalone was training "like a marathon runner" before narrowing her focus to sprints only.
"We really wanted to work on making sure she focused on becoming a sprinter if that's what she wanted to do," Walton said. "She fell in love with it."
Said Cippalone: "It's a different kind of mental strategy you have to have. You don't have time to think."
Cippalone has yet to lose in five meets this season. Like Banks, coaches think she has a shot to take athlete of the year honors at Saturday's state meet.
She's run the 400-meter in 62 seconds and has her sights set on the SCISA state record, which is in the 59 range. Walton and Cooper, though grateful for Thursdays at Westside, think Cippalone would benefit by having more access to a track.
But Cippalone said that wouldn't be her excuse. She said coaches have optimized workouts without daily use of the track.
And it hasn't hindered her finishes. She said the highlight of the season to this point was earning Most Valuable Girls Performer at a meet at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.
"She does not know how to lose," Cooper said.
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