Strong finish nets Brusly Westside Track title _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Opelousas' Darrius Berard, left, runs against Northeast's Marqueon Minor in the 110-meter hurdles at the Westside Relays last month at Port Allen. Berard will be competing in the 110 hurdles at the state meet Saturday at LSU's Bernie Moore Stadium.

Stage fright won’t be a crucial issue for many of the Opelousas and Beau Chene athletes scheduled to compete Saturday in the Class 4A state track meet.

When the participants from each school are paraded into their event areas, the anticipation aspect won’t be as difficult, since most of them have been participated at the state meet.

Beau Chene’s Helena Tibbs, who competed last year as a freshman, said she won’t be as nervous Saturday as she was initially.

“I’ll certainly feel more comfortable. I certainly won’t be as nervous as I was last year. I know I can handle it better,” she said.

Tibbs, who reigned as the outstanding field performer in the St. Landry Parish, 4-4A district and regional meets, said she hopes to be one of the favorites in the jumping events.

A sophomore all-district performer in volleyball and basketball, Tibbs has thrown 36 feet, 1 inch in the triple jump. In the long jump, Tibbs’ best is 16-10.

Despite a certain familiarity with the LSU track, Tibbs said there is an excitement that is hard to suppress, especially when it comes to competing against the state’s best.

“What I was used to seeing when I first competed (at the state meet) was all the faces in the stands,” said Tibbs. “It’s just so exciting. All the people are watching you come out into the competition areas.”

Tibbs will be one of several Beau Chene athletes scheduled to compete again.

Senior Charlie Milton is a returnee in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles.

In addition, the Gators will have girls high jumper Courtney Stelly, who cleared 5-2 in the district meet.

For the Opelousas boys, the appearance is somewhat disappointing, said track coach Kenneth Winfrey.

Winfrey’s Tigers were the Class 4A champion last year. On Saturday, some of the key members of that cast will be missing.

Competing, however, will be several key members of last year’s championship run, including defending 800 champion Collins Roberts, 110-hurdler Darrius Berard and some members of a champion 4x200 relay team.

Ke’Andre Jones, who ran a leg on the relay last year, will also be back, but he will participate in a different event.

This season Jones, a two-year quarterback starter, is throwing the javelin. His best throw is 172-11, but Jones said he thinks he can do better.

“This is the last event I will compete in during high school, and I think I can throw better,” said Jones, who is eyeing the school record of 206 feet.

Winfrey said he thinks Jones has adjusted well to the javelin.

“He’s a natural at it,” Winfrey said. “He’s played quarterback, and he can throw with a lot of natural ability. He’s been working with coach Randy Houser and his son (David Houser). The son went to state three times in the javelin and is a real technician.”

Jones said he’s worked with various grips and is considering using one of two kinds in the state meet.

“I’ve been working with a throwing family this season,” Jones said. “I can throw all day; it’s just the little things that I have been working on.”

Roberts, who won the regional meet, has run several events this year, but the 800, he said, is his signature event.

He said he has run a sub- 2-minute 800 this year.

“I’m coming into the state meet pretty confident,” said Roberts. “I plan to run the way I always do, staying about third or fourth and then when we get to the second lap, I’ll see if I need to go and put on the sprint.”

Berard ran the 110 and 300 hurdles at last year’s state meet. In the 4-4A meet in Crowley, Berard fell while attacking the fourth hurdle and was disqualified in the 300. His best time in the 110 is 14.9.

“It was really disappointing not to be able to run the 300 at regional, but I will be back (at state) in the 110, so in a way it’s good for me. I get to focus on one thing,” Berard said.

Milton and Berard have been competing in both hurdles events for the past two years, and Milton said they pay attention to each other’s finishes.

“I just have seen (Berard) as a friendly rival,” Milton said. “Running against (Berard) always makes me better and I want to beat him.”

Milton said his speed is a concern in the 110 (15.84) but in the 300,(40.12) he feels more comfortable.

“In the 110, I’m not as fast as I need to be at the start,” Milton said. “In the 300, it’s a more physical race. I’m a 400 guy originally, so the 300 is something I am better suited for.”

Also competing for Opelousas are Oceanna Harrison in the shot put (35-7) and triple jumper Destiny Pitre (34-8¾).