While the Speed Meet itself has been an area track and field tradition for years, the 2021 edition took on added meaning as it was the first one run as the John Strickland Speed Meet.
Host Fayette County High competed along with Whitewater, Creekside, Douglas County, Frederick Douglass, Hampton, South Atlanta, Tri-Cities, and Elite Scholars Academy in the meet renamed in tribute to the Tiger legend. Strickland was a teacher and a championship-winning coach at FCHS for more than two decades when he passed just days after completing the fall semester in December 2019 following a brave fight against cancer. The 2020 edition of the meet was set to be the first run under his name, but COVID-19 led to its cancellation and pushed the debut to spring 2021.
“The decision was made to change the name from the Fayette County Speed Meet to the John Strickland Speed Meet because of the many seen and unseen contributions Coach Strickland made to track and field at FCHS over the years that he served as a teacher, coach, mentor, colleague, friend, and dedicated Tiger,” said FCHS Principal Yolanda Briggs-Johnson. “Changing the name of the meet symbolizes all that Coach embodied and expected of his athletes: A competitive heart, good sportsmanship, grace, compassion, encouragement, support, and love of the game.”
The meet was always special to Coach Strickland, so when current coach Ebonie Ogletree suggested renaming it, Athletic Director Bill Stikes jumped on the idea.
“Coach Ebonie Ogletree wanted to honor Coach Strickland’s commitment to track and to FCHS. He loved the layout of the speed meet, where each athlete only participates in one relay and one individual event. He liked that each athlete could focus solely on their best event and that teams would have opportunities for more athletes to meaningfully contribute to the team,” said Stikes. “I know he also appreciated meets that were well-organized and ran smoothly and would have appreciated all of Coach Ogletree’s and the track booster club’s hard work to make sure everything went well.”
It was thrilling to see so many top-flight athletes competing in a meet in tribute to a coach who appreciated excellence.
“The number of athletes and schools that participated warmed my heart, mostly because all of the coaches and schools knew Coach Strickland personally. They all admired and respected him, and I would like to believe their participation was a nod to honor his legacy of excellence and commitment to competitiveness in track and field,” said Briggs-Johnson. “Coach Strickland would have been very proud of the entire meet from beginning to end, from the participation to the competitiveness to the beautiful weather to the encouragement and good sportsmanship that was displayed throughout the meet.”
Local schools made their mark as Fayette County won the girls team title, with Whitewater in 3rd place. On the boys side, Whitewater won, with Fayette County as runner-up.
“Coach Strickland loved student-athletes, loved track, and loved Fayette County High School. I know he would have been proud to see all those athletes working hard to achieve their best results,” said Stikes. “FCHS is honored to remember his legacy by continuing this meet in his name.”