The least talented teams are sometimes the ones that make the biggest impact. Nobody knows that better than Butler boys track and field coach Derek Gilyard.
Gilyard has earned a reputation for fielding a state contender every year. He admits he has had more talented teams during his career at the school, but the determination of this year's team has Gilyard excited about the upcoming Region 2-AAAA meet as well as the state meet in Jefferson May 12-13.
"We've got a team with a lot of leadership," said Gilyard, who has just six seniors on the squad. "They have a lot of heart, and they're willing to work. This is one of the best teams I've ever had in terms of hard work and determination. But talent-wise, I've had some very talented teams."
Part of the team's success is because of unselfish athletes like senior Allen Davis. Davis, who runs a leg on the No. 2 4x100-meter relay team, the 4x400-meter relay team and the 800-meter dash, is often-called Gilyard's "utility-man." He serves as an alternate on the No. 1 4x100-meter relay team.
"I've already ran it (4x100-meter relay) and I'd rather let someone else have a part in it," Davis said. "I'd rather let guys like Kelvin Brown run so they can get a chance to know what it's like. I'd like to see them better next year than we were this year."
Gilyard has been excited about the progress of sophomore Jamaal Roundtree, who has continued to improve in the hurdle events.
"He's been very consistent for us this season," Gilyard said. "He's improved on his time and gotten better from week to week."
As confident as Gilyard is in this year's team, things didn't did not begin smoothly. Eugene Lee, who established himself as one of the area's top sprinters last season, decided not to run for Butler this season, instead opting to run for a local AAU track club this summer.
Lee not only used his blazing speed, running a leg on the 4x100-meter relay team, but he also finished third in the 100-meter dash last season at the state meet.
No question Lee could have helped Butler become more dangerous at Tuesday's Region 2-AAAA meet in Warner Robins. But nothing pleases Gilyard more than the team's work ethic.
"I can tell them what to do, and I know they do it," he said. "I don't have to stand over them and make sure they do what I tell them."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.