Blaze expect big things this year

The community is still in the clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears that school will start at some point and scholastic athletics won’t be far behind.

The Clinton Blaze athletic program will be heading into its fourth year of existence. and Clinton City Schools Athletic Director E.T. Stamey is excited about the coming academic year, which is slated to begin next month.

Things will begin with fall sports, including cross country, swimming and boys and girls basketball.

In the spring, the Blaze will field a track and field team for the third consecutive season. The Blaze will also have an intramural bowling league. Bowling was cut short due to the pandemic, and the 2020 track and field campaign never really got started, according to Stamey, who recently finished his duties in the CCS’s meal distribution program.

That ended on June 30 and provided students with 59,857 meals since schools shut down in March.

Also this fall, Chris Carroll, a soccer pro from Knoxville, looks to have another clinic for aspiring male and female soccer players. Carroll hosts multiple camps for the city’s elementary school students every year.

“He likes coming here every year and he likes Clinton,” Stamey said of Carroll. “We get a large turnout and these kids are really good.”

Later in the academic year, Stamey said, he hopes to have softball, golf and tennis clinics. Tennis was scheduled to start its first clinic run during the spring semester of 2020, but the health crisis caused that to be scrapped.

“I won’t have teams yet for the sports where we have clinics,” Stamey said. “We have players interested but I can’t find a place for us to play where we can compete.”

Cross Country and Track and Field: Coach Terri Kerley will coach cross country and track for the Blaze and Lady Blaze. Both sports have made great strides in a short time and Blaze athletes Kenzlee Hutchison, Charlotte Hutchison and Adeline Queener will head to the Junior Olympics in Florida Aug. 5-8.

That trio of athletes posted some stellar performances at the Youth Athletics Meet Saturday at Knoxville’s West High School.

Kenzlee Hutchison won both the shotput and discus competitions in her age group. In the shotput, she had a mark of 26 feet, 2½ inches. In the discus, she had a throw of 48 feet-8½ inches.

Charlotte Hutchison won the shot in her age classification (11 feet, 6½ inches).

Queener won all of the sprint races Saturday. In the 100, she had a time of 16.85 seconds. She was victorious in the 200 with a time of 36.03 seconds. She won the 400 (1:30.51).

Cross Country Schedule: The Blaze cross country season is tentatively set to begin Sept. 5 with the Victor Ashe Park Fall Classic. The season will go until late October. The Blaze will be at Cove Lake on Sept. 9 (elementary school meet) and Sept. 10 (middle school meet).

Clinton will be at Walters State-Sevierville Sept. 14-15. The Blaze will be at Leisure Polls Meet Sept. 21-22. The Blaze teams travel to Knoxville and Johnson University Sept. 28-29.

Swimming: Coach Zeke Rich returns to coach in the Blaze’s co-ed swimming program, which begins its third year during the fall semester. The program returns several athletes who are talented, enabling Rich to build a solid and competitive program during the team’s charter stages.

The swim season is in limbo as the Clinton Community Center has yet to reopen since closing in March due to the pandemic.

Bowling: Coach Tammy Thatcher will coach bowling again in the spring. The intramural league has become a hit in Clinton as it is a top spectator sport.

The league has also helped the sport grow in the community as many parents of CCS bowlers have now taken up the game.

The league was cut short this spring. COVID-19 also forced the Clinton Community Center to close and it has yet to reopen.