E.A. Sports Today

Ohatchee, Anniston girls win sectionals

[corner-ad id=1][corner-ad id=2]Both teams get a piece of sectional championships with points in final relay

By East Alabama Sports Today

MOUNTAIN BROOK – It was an improbable victory that came in a most improbable way.

The Ohatchee girls track team won its first ever sectional championship Saturday when it got two fortuitous breaks in the final race of the day.

The Lady Indians scored 121 points, tying with Lexington, qualifying all 10 of their girls in 12 events for the state meet in Cullman. The boys finished eighth and qualified eight in four events.

“Breaking through that barrier of winning the sectional, I think that’s pretty cool,” Ohatchee coach Casey Howell said. “When we got in the car my son looked at me and said, ‘When you’re supposed to win, you’re supposed to win.’”

But it was close. All of Howell’s projections had Ohatchee finishing second or third and the Lady Indians trailed by five going into the final event, the 4×400 relay. To win the meet, they needed leader Lexington not to finish and them find a way to finish in the top four.

No matter how improbable at the start, both circumstances happened and they scored enough points to win the Class 3A Section 4 meet.

To the first, Lexington’s leadoff runner collapsed on the track with a 30-yard lead some 50 yards from the first exchange, knocking her team out of the race. Then, the Lady Indians were running fifth on the anchor leg when a Colbert County runner took a misstep in the final turn and pulled a hamstring allowing freshman Kourtney Shuler to bring home a fourth-place finish that earned the Indians enough points to win.

“It just all happened so fast,” Shuler said. “I knew we were really close to getting first (in the meet) and I knew we had to run our best race. We got fourth (in the race), but that was just enough to make our whole team get first. We’re really pumped for state. We’ve just been working so hard this season and wanted it so bad.”

Such an improbable set of circumstances prompted one area coach who heard about the finish to say, “That sounds like magic. What kind of voodoo are they working?”

Howell called it a total team effort, from the four athletes who qualified for state in four events to the “unselfishness” of their teammates who gave up spots in conflicting events to allow them to contend in their events.

Shuler was one of the four to qualify in four. The others were Victoria McRaney, Courtney Poole and Ally McCoy. McRaney finished second in the 1600 and 3200 and was top three in the 800. Poole was runner-up in the high jump and javelin.

Joria Steger won the shot and the 4×800 relay team won. Gabe Hammonds won the boys 3200.

“We took 10 girls down there and won a sectional championship,” Howell said. “We built the team around our strengths and we looked to where we could get points from others.”

It has been a big year for Ohatchee’s second-year program. The Indians won the county boys cross-country championship and won their first boys meet before that. The girls finished in the top 10 in the state indoor meet and had an individual champion. They had never won a meet before and this year won three.

“We’ve come a long way,” Shuler said. “Last year the odds were against us, but this year we came out and showed everybody. We left everything we had on the track.”

Anniston girls score courageous win

DORA – When Anniston track coach Lisa Howard looks back on her girls team winning the Class 5A Section 3 meet, the thing she will remember most is the courage of her athletes.

She will recall with great fondness the courage Davia Palmer showed in the 4×100 Friday by limping down the final 30 yards of her leg with a pulled hamstring to get the Bulldogs much needed points. And then there was the way her makeshift 4×400 relay team discounted their youth to run their fastest time of the year and win the event that won the meet Saturday.

“It feels really, really good to win the section,” Howard said. “We won last year and then to come back again this year and win it feels real good. The way this team pulled together and did it was just amazing.

“It started (Friday) with Davia and the hamstring when she put the team on her back in her race and carried them when she could’ve given up and they all picked up where she left off. Everybody wanted to do this because there were a lot of points there. With two of our main sprinters being out and going with young kids, it was really amazing. God was really on our side.”

With Palmer on the shelf, Howard had to shuffle the lineup in the hurdles, sprints and the biggest race of the meet. The 4×400 team ran 4:17.78 behind eighth-grader Jordyn Johnson, sophomore Samaiya Colbert, seventh-grader Destiny Culver and junior anchor Raven Cooley.

Carsheuna Curry had her best jump ever in winning the long jump (17-8),

The Anniston boys finished second. Zebadee Lunsford won the 1600 and 3200 and finished second in the 800. Tae Miller won the long jump and finished third in only his second time competing in the triple jump.

“The boys stepped up,” Howard said. “They wanted to bring home a trophy, and they did.”

The Bulldogs are headed to their state meet in Gulf Shores.

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