Spears, Ratliff, Tharp and Vance

Donavin Spears, C.J Ratliff, Austin Tharp and Jacob Vance are to take on the nation in the Boys 800 Medley in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals this weekend.

NEW LEXINGTON — Four elite Panthers’ runners are to bring their a-game to North Carolina this weekend in the New Balance Nationals Outdoor track meet.

New Lexington’s standout, C.J Ratliff will be running individually in the 400-Meter Dash, but also with the stellar relay team of Donavin Spears, Austin Tharp and Jacob Vance in the 800-Meter Medley.

Improving himself and his competition were the two things Ratliff said were most important about the upcoming meet and gaining a placement regarding the Sprint and Medley.

Ratliff will be closing the Medley race with a final 400-Meter Sprint.

“Obviously, we want the handoffs to be perfect, so we are definitely working on getting out fast and as soon as we get the baton,” Ratliff said.

“I still think, personally, on the 400, I can get out of the blocks faster.”

“We all just have to eat right, work hard and do the little things with training everyday until competition.”

Starting off the Medley, Spears will be getting his team’s pace going with the immediate 100.

While practicing at his hometown track, Spears said he had to work on getting out hard and handing the baton off to the next runner as fast as he can.

Spears is no stranger to the New Balance Nationals, as he is a returning national qualifier, and opened for the freshman team before in a relay.

With his experience in his memory, Spears said he knows what his team has to prepare for.

“If we can run our best, we should get a placement,” he said.

“We are working on speed and endurance to finish hard.”

Spears will be handing the baton off to Vance, who is to run the second 100-Meter.

Vance, a graduate, is completing his high school athletic career by a first-time visit to North Carolina’s meet.

He said he has nothing more to hope for than a placement among the top runners in the nation.

“I hope we at least get a placement,” said Vance.

“I just need to focus on getting off the blocks hard and getting the lead for the next runner.”

Before Ratliff finishes out the medley for his Panthers, Tharp will be sprinting his body in the 200-Meter part of the race, from Vance to Ratliff.

Also a rookie to the national meet, Tharp said his excitement is nothing compared to his determination.

“It is pretty cool and I’m excited, but we can do better than what we are doing,” Tharp said.

“We just have to keep working hard, getting a good handoff and finishing it out strong.”

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