Several of the area’s best track and field squads will showcase their skills today at Hahnville High School as it hosts the annual Don Raymond Relays.
The meet will begin with field events starting at 3 p.m., with the track competitions kicking off at 5 p.m. The longtime tradition is named for Tigers’ alumnus Don Raymond, who left a legendary legacy as not only one of the region’s most decorated and accomplished athletes but also groundbreaking — Raymond was one of the first black students to attend HHS and the first ever black athlete to participate in sports at the school.
Raymond died tragically at the age of 16 after he was involved in a car accident in 1969, but he continues to inspire young athletes to this day.
“I’ve been talking to them about who Don Raymond was and his great contributions to Hahnville and beyond,” said Brittany Bonnaffons, HHS head track and field coach. “We’re really excited to run at this meet. We’re all just here crossing our fingers saying ‘Please don’t rain’ because they always love to perform at home.”
As always, Destrehan will join its cross-parish rival to compete at the relays.
Among teams joining them will be Karr, Lusher, East St. John, Belle Chasse and St. James.
Bonnaffons says her team is especially excited to have a chance to see how it stacks up against several of the state’s top performers.
The Tigers have had a strong start this season: the boys team has won each of its past two meets, at Vandebilt Catholic and Central Lafourche, respectively, and three Tigers athletes earned MVP honors at the Vandebilt meet. On the boys side, Jerry Spencer was named Field MVP at Vandebilt Catholic placing second in the triple jump and third in the long jump, while Gevon Hill took MVP on the track, taking first in the 100 and 200 meter dash. Kevel Byrd, meanwhile, earned Track MVP honors on the girls side with first place finishes in the 100 and 200. The relay teams have also been strong throughout the early events thus far this season.
“It’s been good to see, watching them grow over the years since they were freshmen,” said Bonnaffons. “They’re coming into their own. We lost so many really strong seniors in last year’s class, and you’re wondering, ‘Hey, can we recover from this?’ Pooka Williams, Ashlyn Jack, Alexis Williams … really dominant performers. But our kids this year are showing they’re no longer sitting in anyone’s shadow, both on the track and in the field events this year. We’re scoring points in a lot of events and that’s what it takes to win these meets.”
She said the Tigers have been comparing their finishing marks and times with those of athletes competing at some of the major track and field events thus far this season, like the Sugar Bowl Track and Field Classic, and they’ve compared favorably to them.
“Our times have been competitive with the times that won there, so to see a lot of those head-to-head matchups now will be fun to see,” Bonnaffons said.
“They’ve done well at those huge relay events, so now they’re coming here and we can see how we do against them. It’s a chance to show what we’re about.”