OAK HILL — The Red Devils track team has been down the past few years but it appears things are on the upswing for Oak Hill.

“I hope that the kids are wanting to come out and do good for me,” said first-year coach George Smith, a former Concord track and field standout. “They seem to be responding to some of the things I’m doing at practice with them.”

Smith believes that he has a talented, athletic group but he feels it is up to him to get the best performances out of his team.

“When you push them, they want you to do that,” he said. “They moan and groan and carry on but they really want to be pushed, because that at least shows them that coach believes in them. I push them fairly hard at practice.”

Tuesday, several members of the team performed well at the Oak Hill Invitational.

“I am surprised (at how well Oak Hill has performed),” Smith said. “Just based on what I’m witnessing, we are even better than last week and I was very happy during the Liberty meet with the performances.”

The Red Devils feature a lineup that is dominated mainly by sophomores and freshmen.

Deja Jones leads the girls’ effort. Jones competes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Kiki Cosby gives the Red Devils another strong runner in the 200.

“I have a few surprises to be honest,” Smith said.

One of them is freshman Neaire Miller. Miller competes in the 1,600-meter run, long jump, 800 and 4x400.

“She’s surprising a lot of people,” Smith said. “She’s doing well, really well.

“The mile is her event. I may play with her, as far as some events, sticking her here and there just to see where she may be able to perform but the one-mile is her strong point.”

Smith expects Kristin Dennler to be a contender in the 300 hurdles.

“It’s an event that (Dennler) has never ran before,” he said. “I decided to try her in it and she came out and posted a fairly good time. I don’t know how she is going to do today but she’ll be in the mix somewhere. She’ll place, I’m sure. She runs well.”

Brittney Thomas, a state qualifier a year ago, returns in the discus and shot put events.

On the boys’ side, senior Clint Lawson and junior Tim Patterson head the team.

“Both of them are probably going to do pretty well in the 200 and 400,” Smith said. “Lawson had a very good day. If he’ll come out and run, which he has been, and if he continues to do what he has been doing, you’re going to probably see him up in the mix in the state track meet. He’s only been practicing about a week and a half. He’s still training, so he’s going to get better. There’s no doubt about it.”

Although there are some people missing on the boy’s squad for various reasons, there is still a good young group that will help out in the future that includes Cory Smith and Jackson Allen.

“I don’t want to forget about the ones that just pound in practice every day,” Smith said. “All of those kids come in and they work hard every single day. We’re young. You may not see their names this year but in the next few years, they’ll start to emerge.”

— E-mail: rjett@register-herald.com

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