A small group of Italy track stars make a big impression against 4A schools

Image: Italy’s Kortnei Johnson sticks the landing to claim 1st place in the long jump while competing in a track meet held in Ennis recently.

Italy’s Kortnei Johnson sticks the landing to claim 1st place in the long jump while competing in a track meet held in Ennis recently. (Barry Byers)

Ennis — As small armies of Lions, Panthers and Indians trotted around the track before a track meet held in Ennis recently, 1A Italy’s team of about 11 watched nervously from outside of the fence before mustering the courage to step on the track and compete against 4A programs such as Ennis, Midlothian, Waxahachie, Red Oak and Mansfield Legacy.

Ryheem Walker got things started for Italy in the long jump by flying to 4th Place with IHS AD and Football/Track Coach Hank Hollywood encouraging the talented senior every step of the way. After completing four jumps, with three jumps being personal bests for Walker, Italy seem to gain confidence. “Without any track facilities in Italy, I was expecting our jumps to improve and the difference is already apparent,” commented Hollywood as Walker prepared for his final jump.

Halee Turner, a freshman, went next in the triple jump and finished with a 4th place medal as well, with a jump of 32’ 5". Coaches Nate Skelton, Jessika Robinson and Lindsey Coffman helped plot Turner’s strategy.

Next up was the talented Kortnei Johnson, a sophomore, who left know doubt in the long jump with a high-flying 1st place finish with a leap of 18’ 5". Johnson, who is currently a state-champion in the 100 meter dash, a feat she accomplished in 2012 as a freshman, was just getting started on her goals for the meet.

As Kyle Fortenberry and Zain Byers represented Italy’s varsity Boys in the discuss and shot put, teammate Taleyia Wilson was fearless in the girls discus to claim the 2nd place medal after a throw of 73’ 11".

Still a bit nervous, Turner, Ryisha Copeland, Kendra Copeland and Kortnei Johnson then lined up for the 400 meter relay. Scrambling to perfect their timing, which is difficult to practice back home, the ‘fab four’ held their own taking 5th place, with Waxahachie coming in 6th.

Later in the 100 meter dash, Johnson bolted past the cheering grand stands to take 1st place. The queen of the 100 maintains her reign by posting a time of 11.54.

All-in-all, it was a great day for Italy track who showed their might against some of the biggest schools in the area. Below is a complete list of Italy track results while competing in Ennis:

Varsity Boys

Long Jump

  • Ryheem Walker, 20’ 10" — 4th place

110m Hurdles

  • Ryheem Walker, 16.27

300 Hurdles

  • Ryheem Walker, 47.82 (fell, but finished the race)

800m Dash

  • Paul Harris, 2:37

400m Dash

  • Paul Harris, 58.55

Junior Varsity Boys:

100m Dash

  • Shad Newman, 12.84

200m Dash

  • Shad Newman, 25.36

“On the boys’ side, we had a small squad due to the conflict with baseball, but the boys that did run and throw worked hard! I may seem repetitive, but they have always managed to compete even though they are often facing 4A schools with very good talent. I couldn’t be happier with the way that these young men are representing Italy,” commented Coach Nate Skelton.

h4. Junior Varsity Girls:


  • Taleyia Wilson, 73’ 11" – 2nd place

100m Dash

  • Bernice Hailey, 14.6

200m Dash

  • Bernice Hailey, 30.71

Varsity Girls:

Long Jump

  • Kourtnei Johnson, 18’ 5" – 1st place

Triple Jump

  • Halee Turner, 32’ 5" – 4th place

4 × 100 Relay — 52.55 – 5th place

  • Halee Turner
  • Ryisha Copeland
  • Kendra Copeland
  • Kourtnei Johnson

100m Hurdles

  • Halee Turner, 17.12 – 1st place

100m Dash

  • Kourtnei Johnson, 11.54 – 1st place
  • Ryisha Copeland, 13.94
  • Kendra Copeland, 14.1

Flashback: Italy High School’s Kortnei Johnson wins the 2012 2A Girls 100 Meter Dash state championship with a time of 11.97 during the UIL Texas Relays held in Austin. Johnson and two other sprinters were named the UIL State Meet’s Most Outstanding Athletes within the 2A girls’ division

300m Hurdles

  • Halee Turner, 50.51 – 1st place

200m Dash

  • Kourtnei Johnson, 24.31 – 1st place
  • Ryisha Copeland, 30.12

Great job, Italy!