Published: 08:18 PM, Thu May 17, 2012
South View's Mitchell greatly influencing local high school long jumpers in track
Larry Mitchell visited the Reid Ross Classical School track early last Saturday to set up the jumping pits for the 3-A Mideast Regional. He then headed north to watch the 4-A East Regional in Benson.
His long jumpers stayed busy winning titles at both sites.
The influence of Mitchell, a USATF-certified coach with the Fayetteville Flyers track club and first-year assistant with South View High School, will be felt throughout this weekend's NCHSAA championships in Greensboro.
Douglas Byrd's Frank Quarles, a regional champion, and Carlecia Spivey qualified for today's 3-A state meet. Regional champions Darlene Girardeau of South View and Deondre Butler of Jack Britt are the top seeds for the 4-A state meet Saturday.
"It gives you a sense of pride having this many," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who grew up in the Florida panhandle near the Alabama and Georgia borders, attended Malone High School and was a guard on the basketball team in 1981, when the Tigers captured one of their 13 state titles. He played basketball and participated in track at Methodist, where he first gave long jumping a serious try.
His actual name is Larry Mount, but track athletes have called him "Coach Mitchell" since he joined the Flyers a dozen years ago so he could work with his son, jumper Brandon Mitchell.
Larry Mitchell said he has coached Quarles and Butler since they were in elementary school. Girardeau, who started competing for the Flyers last summer, and prep teammate Brandon Bulla benefited from the addition of Mitchell to South View coach Jesse Autry's staff. Spivey has made significant strides since teaming up with Mitchell during the 2012 indoor season.
The jumpers all mention his no-nonsense approach as a strength.
"He'll tell you how it is," Quarles said. "You work hard at practice, but he's a nice guy, a good all-round person. Athletes like us, we take that to heart, and it makes us want to work harder."
'Who are you?'
Spivey said she'll receive texts from Mitchell that read, "Who are you?" The message: Even with success, don't get lazy or complacent, because there are equally good or better jumpers out there. Butler wanted to practice on Christmas morning, and Mitchell met him at Reid Ross before many families had opened their presents. They worked out again on New Year's Day.
Girardeau can vividly remember her first Flyers practice. Exhausted and fed up after running 300-meter repeats, she grabbed her car keys, left early and didn't return for several days. Once back, Mitchell took her keys so she couldn't sneak away a second time.
"He's a great coach," Spivey said. "He's on you when he needs to be and on you when he doesn't need to be just so you don't fall behind. He knows how to have a good time, but at the same time he's serious."
When Girardeau is sprinting with a tire strapped to her back or running steps, she has a better understanding of how the hard work will make her stronger and improve her runway speed.
She won her first regional championship last weekend in Benson, and a state title could be next. Quarles is the 3-A favorite, and Butler is one of the top contenders in 4-A.
Their accomplishments reflect well on the Flyers and Mitchell's coaching philosophy.
"We definitely push them," Mitchell said. "The program speaks for itself when you're able to sit back and watch kids really excelling."
Staff writer Bret Strelow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3513.