The Trojans graduated Broderick Snoddy in 2011 and Jonathan Jones in 2012, an instrumental duo in the first three-peat in 28 years for the storied program. And if Musselwhite’s group is going to win a fourth straight, it will have to do so under a true team effort in 2013 — because there are no superstars this go-around.
“You don’t got a 30-point guy here this year. That’s the first thing missing,” Musselwhite said. “Obviously, you don’t replace those guys. You have to find new guys that you find out their strengths. We don’t have a Jonathan Jones or a Broderick Snoddy sitting out here. We’ve got some younger kids that in an event or two are pretty solid, I’m just not seeing the performances early in the year I thought I’d see out of them.”
This past weekend, Carrollton went to the Jerry Arnold Classic hosted by Mill Creek and it was an eye-opening experience. Even knowing there wasn’t that elite performer, the Trojan coach’s expectations were not met.
“We had our first meet this past Saturday and it wasn’t pretty. We didn’t do real well. We had a couple kids in distance events do real well, had a freshman who did pretty good in an event. Besides that, what my expectations are, it wasn’t very good. But it was the first meet of the season,” Musselwhite said.
If Carrollton is going to have the success it has become accustomed to, a lot of the Trojans with previous experience at the state meet and other high-level meets will have to step up to collectively fill some voids. Even those with the experience and the leaders didn’t start the season off the way Musselwhite would have liked.
“Just a little behind where I thought we would be with the kids that have been to the state meet before and have run in some big track meets the last two years. Just behind where I thought we were. I guess that’s my job as coach to fix that. Some things in track you can’t fix all of a sudden, you’ve got to work over time to do it,” Musselwhite said.
One veteran that Musselwhite feels is capable of filling some of that void is De’Antoine Cammons, along with some of the other state qualifiers and veterans of the bunch.
“De’Antoine Cammons is one kid, he could probably be a four-, five-event guy by the end of the year. He was a state-placer last year in the high jump. We talked [Tuesday], he needs to be a leader out here by performance and be able to be that vocal leader that comes to workouts and get kids through some things,” Musselwhite said. “We’ve got Cassidy Emory, he’s one of our returners that’s somebody who should have a really good year. Blake Hamil is another one of those seniors that ran cross country this fall and got a little head start on the track season. He’s already come up and run 2:04.5, which is already two seconds better than last year, so we’re excited about his 800[-meter]. Marquis Barnes is in crutches ... turned his ankle, so he’s going to be out two to three weeks.”
The Trojans also have Malik Sheppard — who placed second in the long jump at the state last year — distance-runner Michael Crowder, who spent the fall running with the cross country team gaining valuable experience, along with discus and shot put thrower Cole Cook.
Along with the loss from graduation and the injury to Barnes, Carrollton will be without two of its top runners all season as the injury bug has bitten early.
“We’ve run the 4x1 race, and we haven’t had three of our top four kids from last year even run yet. Two of them are not going to be able to run at all,” Musselwhite said. “We’ve lost two kids from the championship team last year that aren’t going to get to run this year. It’s going to be a long, tough road for us this year … very challenging.”
The Trojans will get one of their biggest tests of the season this weekend when they travel to Florida for the Bob Hayes Invitational in Jacksonville. With Florida experiencing some better weather and having an indoor season during the winter Musselwhite expects, and hopes, his team to be humbled and realize how much more work is needed to compete for a fourth straight title.
“We’re trying to go back and continue what we do every year and hope it works out at the end of the year,” Musselwhite said. “Hopefully, in a couple weeks, we’ll turn a corner. We’re going to a couple big meets this weekend. We’re going to Jacksonville, Florida, for the Bob Hayes Invitational, which is probably the largest, most competitive track meets in the Southeast and possibly the nation. That’s a place to get humbled real quickly.”
Not only are the Trojans suffering personnel problems, but the competition level in Region 5-AAAA doesn’t do them any favors. Along with an already tough region, Carrollton will welcome Sandy Creek and Fayette County to the mix.
“Sandy Creek will have a lot of good athletes,” Musselwhite said. “LaGrange has got some really good sprint guys coming back from last year. One had quit, but their coach called me and had let him back … We’ve definitely got our work cut out just to get out of the region. We’re going to be good in the events we’re going to work at. We put a lot of emphasis on the hurdles and the jumps. Traditionally, that’s what we’ve been strong in.”
While being without those elite runners can hurt, it also brings about a little more team unity to the group. The guys Musselwhite is coaching have run together for the school as well as with coach Larry Turner in the summer track program and have had success. Now they need to step it up to the next level and the Carrollton coaching staff is ready to help get them there.
“Just got to go back to the drawing board and make these kids work, keep them on a program. They’ve got to believe in what we’re doing. They’ve got to go to all the meets and compete well and then, hopefully, at the end of the year it will all pan out for us,” Musselwhite said. “It’s going to be a long year. I’ve got that feeling in my gut.”