COVINGTON - There is no question that Eastside's J'Quyra Moncur-Blue and Asia Palmer's performances at the Class AAA girls state track meet were a big reason for the Lady Eagles' third-place finish.
Blue recorded two firsts, winning the shot put (41 feet, 10 inches) and discus (126 feet, 5 inches), while Palmer won the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 17.55 seconds) and was a member of the winning 1,600-meter relay team (3 minutes, 56.83 seconds).
While winning at state is an impressive feat by itself, what makes Moncur-Blue's wins even more amazing is her lack of experience in those events.
"I threw the shot put in my eighth grade year and I haven't thrown it since. I just got back in the game. I really didn't have that much experience, never really threw discus," she said.
"People were shocked. It's just a natural ability that I've got, I'm blessed."
This year was also her first throwing the discus. But even though she has the ability, that doesn't mean she doesn't work and train hard.
As a member of Throw 1 Deep track club, Moncur-Blue and her coach, Mike Judge, have been preparing diligently for the events.
"We've been working on some little techniques preparing me for state," Moncur-Blue said. "I've been training really hard. Offseason, I threw the shot put indoor and actually became an All-American in that. I've been working really hard in the discus. I've been struggling all season. But I've been working really hard and got a huge PR (personal record). It feels really great to get two titles in track and field."
As a part of Throw 1 Deep, Blue also participated in the hammer throw, recording a toss of more than 137 feet.
Moncur-Blue, a senior who transferred to Eastside from Miami this year, will attend Fresno State University and be a member of its track and field team.
For Palmer, returning to Albany was a challenge after qualifying as freshman in the 400 meters, but an injury at state kept her from getting on the track.
She failed to make it as a sophomore and did not make any noise her junior year in the 800 meters.
"It was really, really difficult after I got injured my ninth-grade year. My 10th grade year was totally downhill," Palmer said. "I just had to focus my 11th grade year, and now all the hard work paid off."
Palmer started running track in seventh grade at Cousins Middle School before joining an AAU team the following year, where she ran the 400.
While the 800 is twice the distance, the training between the 400 and the 800 is not that much different, according to Palmer.
"For the 400, you do more sprint workouts, where we still do sprint workouts for the 800. We just do 600 for warm-ups," she said.
The next step for Palmer will be Albany State, where she will run track.
In the relay event, Palmer, along with Kimberly Thomas and Whitney Martin, helped keep freshman Shyanne Uguwibe in check as the four posted the fastest 1,600 relay time.
"(Shyanne) is really, really good to be a freshman. She was nervous and everything, but we told her even if we don't make it, we're going to kill it no matter what," Palmer said. "At prelims, we did it in 3:58, and we did it in 3:56 (in the final). It feels good."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.