E.A. Sports Today

Chase catches a title

Ohatchee senior Widgeon wins 1A-3A boys long jump at state indoor track championship; PV’s Faucett sets record in high jump

Chase Widgeon (L) and Ohatchee track coach Casey Howell stand at the display of Widgeon’s winning long jump. (Photo courtesy of Casey Howell)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Chase Widgeon wasn’t sure which track and field event he wanted to try when he was being introduced to the sport earlier this year.

Today, he’s a state champion in the last event he picked.

Widgeon became Ohatchee’s first boys T&F state champion Saturday when he won the Class 1A-3A long jump at the State Indoor Championships at the Birmingham Crossplex. The senior’s winning jump was a mind-blowing 20 feet, 10 ½ inches.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “My brain was scattered everywhere after I heard (he’d won).”

A few hours later, Pleasant Valley junior Rachel Faucett continued her dominance in the Class 1A-3A girls high jump, winning her first indoor title with a state-record and complex-record-tying jump of 5-7. She is working on a string of three straight outdoor titles. The old high school mark of 5-6 had stood since 1981 (Yutta Shelton, Randolph) and the complex mark was set by Caroline Lawrence of Homewood on Dec. 3.

With a two-year-old comfortable pair of shoes and a bunch of ibuprofen for a sore ankle, she blasted through the field. She made 5-7 on her third attempt, and her reaction after clearing the bar is the stuff of viral video gold.

“I’m really excited; I didn’t expect it to be that way at all,” she said. “I was kind of scared because I hadn’t been doing good at practice. I thought I was going to get knocked out every time, but I just stood there and closed my eyes and prayed because I didn’t want to see them clear the bar or make it. That helped me get through it.”

She made three attempts at 5-8 and cleared her hips all three times but clipped the bar on the way down each time. Immediately after she received an invitation to an elite meet in Mobile April 1.

Widgeon joins Joria Steger as the Indians’ only state champions in the four-year history of their track and field program. Steger won the 1A-3A girls indoor shot put in 2015.

He was seeded sixth going into the event, but sparked by an adjustment to his technique literally moments before his first official jump every one of his attempts Saturday would have been good enough to win the title. He won by a margin of nearly two feet over runner-up Kurtis Drouin of Prattville Christian.

“I just didn’t feel like I was running fast enough,” he explained. “I felt like every time I was running from 80 feet I wasn’t going fast enough. As soon as the meet started today, that’s what I did; I took 10 steps back. They gave us a practice run and I figured that’s what I needed to do.”

Interestingly, the greatest day in his short experience in the sport came one day after perhaps his most disappointing, one that nearly had him not coming back Saturday. But he woke up with the mindset if “yesterday wasn’t my good day, maybe today will be my best day.”

And it was by a long shot. He hit the winning mark on his second attempt.

“Yesterday for some reason he probably had the worst day I’ve seen him have in a sport,” Ohatchee coach Casey Howell said. “I don’t know if he was nervous, but mentally he was not there. He was really upset. He was just having a really off day yesterday to everything clicking today.

“I think what he was he hit a hurdle warming up and I think he shook him. Then he hit it barely in the (preliminary) race and finished ninth. And that was the worst he ever pole vaulted … but still his worst is better than most people’s best. I figured 19 (in the long jump) would be in the Top 3. I never thought he’d get 20; that just shows you how good he can be.”

Widgeon only picked up track this winter because he wasn’t playing basketball and wanted another athletic challenge, and he only got into the long jump by chance. He already was in pole vault, dash and hurdles, but Howell wanted to enter him in another event.

He told Widgeon to go outside and try either the long jump or high jump and take his choice. Within five minutes Widgeon was back in the gym with sand in his shoes saying long jump was the pick because he “couldn’t get the hang” of the technique for high jumping and the long jump felt more natural.

Actually, the coach almost wasn’t there to see Widgeon’s winning jump. He was laid out in the stands fighting the flu and barely made it to the event. But he manned up because he was responsible for transporting six other athletes – not Widgeon – and if he didn’t go, they couldn’t compete.

“I didn’t know if I was gonna make it,” Howell said. “When he won it I was laying down in the stands; it’s as sick as I’ve ever been. His mother kept hitting me, telling me what he was doing. I couldn’t get up.”

Despite his success indoors, Widgeon isn’t certain he’ll compete outdoors this spring. He plays on the Indians’ baseball team and isn’t sure he’ll be able to avoid scheduling conflicts.

The wins by Widgeon and Faucett highlighted another good day for Calhoun County athletes at the meet.

Oxford’s Trevon Sanders took advantage of what he considered a second chance to run and shaved nearly a second off his qualifying time to finish second in the boys 6A 60 hurdles. He ran a smooth 8.93 that lifted the Yellow Jackets to fifth place in the team standings at the time.

The day before in the preliminaries he hit one of the last hurdles hard and finished in 9.7. He thought his meet was done. But he made the field and ran like he never had before.

“When we first got done with the race I didn’t think there was any way I would have another chance to race again,” Sanders said. “Once I found out I got another chance all I could do was thank the Lord. He gave me a second chance to run, he gave me a shot and I went in with the mindset I was going to do my best.”

Sanders’ thankfulness was still very much in evidence as he nervously waited to enter the blocks Saturday. He kissed his religious medal, stepped in and ran the race of his life. His last clean race before Friday’s mishap he ran a 9.04.

Ironically, the runner alongside him Saturday hit a hurdle late in the race and that provided the opening that carried Sanders to second.

Teammate Laquavious Ford was fifth in the boys 6A 400 (50.99) and fourth in 60 (7.07); Antuan Crowder was seventh in boys 60 (7.21); and Shania Vincent was eighth in the girls 400 (1:01.57). The girls 4×400 relay was sixth (4:24.97) and the boys 4×400 was eighth (3:41.03).

In 4A-5A, White Plains’ Ryleigh Randall was eighth in girls 60 hurdles (10.49), a shade slower than her school-record qualifying time; the girls 4×800 relay finished sixth (11:03.00) and the boys 4×400 finished eighth (3:45.39).

In 1A-3A, Piedmont’s Logan Beadles was sixth in the boys shot (38-09.25); Ohatchee’s girls 4×800 relay finished sixth (11:30.07) and its 4×400 was eighth (4:41.08); Pleasant Valley’s boys 4×800 (9:13.24) and 4×400 (3:44.49) were both sixth.

Team standings
Class 1A-3A Girls: 1. American Christian 121, 12. Pleasant Valley 12, 16. Ohatchee 7, 19. Piedmont 4.5

Class 1A-3A Boys: 1. American Christian 87, T-14. Woodland 12, 16. Ohatchee 11.5, 18. Pleasant Valley 10, 21. Piedmont 3.

Class 4A-5A Girls: 1. St. Paul’s Episcopal 85.5, T-21. White Plains 5.

Class 4A-5A Boys: 1. Scottsboro 103, 16. White Plains 12.

Class 6A Girls: 1. Homewood 151, T-13. Oxford 5.

Class 6A Boys: 1. Opelika 89, 8. Oxford 23.

Class 7A Girls: 1. Hoover 123.

Class 7A Boys: 1. Hoover 111.

Pleasant Valley’s Rachel Faucett is all smiles after winning the girls 1A-3A high jump with a state record. (Photo by Brad Hood)

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