E.A. Sports Today

Thrill of victory

Alexandria’s Johnson, White Plains’ Yates win state track titles with career-best efforts

Alexandria’s Kalee Johnson follows through on her final throw in the Class 5A shot put. On the cover, Johnson reacts after learning the throw won the state title.

By East Alabama Sports Today

GULF SHORES – Alexandria sophomore Kalee Johnson thought it was exciting when she won a state indoor shot put title in February, but winning the outdoor championship Thursday, she said, was “20 billion times better.”

White Plains freshman pole vaulter Savannah Yates was excited when she won the county outdoor title last month, but when she won the state title Thursday she said it was “the most amazing feeling.”

Both Calhoun County athletes brought home state championships with personal bests on the opening day of the AHSAA Class 4A-7A State Track & Field Championships. The Class 1A-3A championships in Cullman begin Friday.

Johnson, a sophomore, won the Class 5A girls shot put with a throw of 36-7¾. Yates, a freshman, won the Class 4A girls pole vault with a jump of 11-0.

Johnson beat out Arab’s Caitlin Clark on the final throw of their event, beating her friend by a full foot after going into her do-or-die throw seven inches off the lead. What makes her victory even more impressive is she was 15th in this event in this meet a year ago.

“There was just so much more competition, it makes it that much more special,” Johnson said. “To come back and win it, it was just amazing; just hungry for it.

“I was ready for redemption here, to make myself known. It was a weight lifted off my shoulder. It was my third year at state and this year I really brought it home.”

The two friends waged a battle for the title. Johnson was leading going into the finals after hitting 35-1½ on her final throw of qualifying. Clark took the lead with at 37-7¾ with her final attempt.

“At that point I knew I had to push it,” Johnson said. “I had to dig down deep with every thing I had ever had and grunt like I never grunted before. I pushed it really far out there and was able to get a new PR.”

Yates has been targeting 11 feet all season and she got it on her third attempt Thursday. She would have won the event at 10-6 with fewer misses – she cleared it on the first attempt – but her and Abbie Junkin of Winfield both cleared the height and went to 11.

Using a 12-foot pole she borrowed from one of her club coaches for the first time, Yates made it on the third attempt. With the title and a personal best in hand, she made three attempts at 11-6.

“I’ve been working towards this all season, it’s very exciting,” Yates said. “I didn’t think I could do it. I’ve been working towards it all season and hadn’t been able to clear it. That was the most amazing feeling.”

Here are the Calhoun County athletes who scored points in the state track meet in Gulf Shores:


(Calhoun County point scorers)

5A 1600 – 8. Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria, 5:35.29
6A Javelin – 4. Haley Dempsey, Oxford, 115-4
4A Triple jump – 6. Sa’Nya Fleming, Saks, 33-9.75
4A Pole vault – 1. Savannah Yates, White Plains, 11-0
4A Pole vault – 7. Maggie Ross, White Plains, 7-6
4A High jump – 4. Gracie Morgan, White Plains, 5-0
5A Shot put – 1. Kalee Johnson, Alexandria, 36-7.75

4A Discus – 8. Marreo Thomas, Saks 127-10
6A High jump – T-6. Markise Davis, Oxford, 6-2
4A Pole vault – 2. Matthew Moore, White Plains, 13-6
Note: Munford’s Brodie Bussie placed third in the 4A discus (137-5).

White Plains’ Savannah Yates won the Class 4A girls pole vault with a personal best vault of 11-0.

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