GHS Kittens track teams place high in state meet

Michael Jiles has a good idea of who can make his Grambling High School track and field team even before they compete in an official meet. "Our practices are probably tougher than the meets themselves," admitted the head coach of the Kittens’ and Lady Kittens’ teams. "If they can survive that, then they’ve got a good chance to do well when it really counts." The members of the Grambling High teams are obviously surviving. And, no doubt, they’re definitely succeeding. In Jiles’ continue-to-improve mission, the boys’ squad finished with its highest finish ever at the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association outdoor meet recently held in Baton Rouge. The Kittens were state runner-ups in Class A with a total of 60 points. That performance followed title-winning productions at both the regional 1-A (112 points) and District 2-1A (132) meets. In the girls’ division, where the Lady Kittens were a Class A runner-up in 2004, top three finishes occurred in all three postseason events: No. 2 at district with 113 points and at regionals with 96 and then No. 3 at state with 45 points. "We’ve been blessed with having really good athletes come out for the track and field teams and they’ve worked to have good things happen," said Jiles, a long-time, familiar face in the Grambling High athletic department, where he also serves as an assistant coach in football and has a scorekeeper/statistician for the school’s highly successful boys ‘ basketball squad. "It’s about hard work and getting the best out of the athletes." Jiles settles for nothing but the best and is known for his strict disciplinarian approach. "I call it tough love," he said. "We’re very aggressive and expect a lot out of our student-athletes, but then we also care about them. You might get on to them one minute, but console them the next. You have to let a young person know that you really care for them when it’s all over." The results have been outstanding during Jiles’ five-year stint as the director of the track and field programs. His boys’ squad has steadily progressed into one of the best in the state’s Class A circles. In 2004, they were No. 10 at the state meet. A year later, they jumped to No. 3. And this spring, that runner-up trophy, which they proudly displayed during a recent photo session held at the Grambling State University complex, where they conduct their workout sessions. For the girls’ division, Jiles’ team has gained a pair of league titles under his watch along with being a fourth place state meet finisher in 2004. This spring, in all of the postseason meets, Grambling High has featured a total of 32 first place finishes, including both individual and relay teams. Eighteen of those No. 1 awards have been garnered by the boys, including seven by the talented relay foursomes. Four of the girls’ titles have been in the same specialty. At the district meet, 11 first places were produced by the Kittens, among them being all three relays. Multi-sport standout Gabriel Fleming (long jump, high jump) and sprint standout Royshard Rushing (100, 200-meter dashes) had two championships each. Hurdle-sprint phenom Markesha Peterson went unbeaten in the three after-the-regular-season meets, going six-for-six in her events. "We lose six off of our boys’ team, but we’ve got the nucleus of a good team coming back because of some talented eighth graders and other youngsters," Jiles said. "Our girls’ 400-meter relay team of Jessica Johnson, Sh’Lynn Carruthers, Channelle Hopson and Markesha won state and Janiekqua Butler was the state runner-up in the high jump at 4-10." A chief focus for the boys’ squad has been increasing its success rate in the running events. "Grambling has always had some good field event performers," Jiles said, "but we wanted to implement better running. Now that we’ve got that going well, things are really starting to fall into place." The track record that Jiles has maintained as a coach in the sport reveals that Grambling High’s program will be in the thick of the title chases at the district, regional and state levels for the future. When he was the head coach at Mangham, that school gained district and regional championships in 1998 and were No. 3 in the state Class A meet. His North DeSoto squad was a league title winner in 2001, finished as runner-ups at regionals and closed out with a No. 6 place at the state Double-A meet. "We’re trying to bring the same type of intensity level that you see in football or basketball to the track," said the former GHS and Grambling State University linemen. "Plus, we are planning to have some camps and other programs during the summer months. But again, not only do you want to work hard and be aggressive, at the same time you want to treat these student-athletes like they’re your own sons or daughters. "You have to know you care about them on and outside of athletics." For sure, on the track, Jiles’ Grambling High teams are definitely locked into a success mode.Buddy Davis is the sport editor of The Ruston Daily Leader. He can be contact at buddy@rustonleader.com