A pair of Fort Payne track stars will continue their track careers at the next level.
Sheldonna Chappell had no interest in the Fort Payne track program before the seventh grade. The FPHS senior was slicing up defenses on the basketball court, and her speed and natural jumping ability were obvious. So, the track coaches quickly recruited her to at least give it a shot.
The rest is history. Since that seventh grade year, Chappell has written her name all over the FPHS record books for various sprinting events and long jumps, and she’s been a part of several state track championship teams. Next fall, Chappell will attend the University of South Alabama where she will participate in those same events.
Chappell said there was one simple reason why she stuck with the team for so long.
“I didn’t have an interest in track until (the coaches) drug me down there one day,” Chappell said. “Once I found out I was good at it, I stuck with it ever since.”
Chappell said she perfected her long jump technique the same way most young athletes today would: by watching videos on YouTube.
“I’ve always kind of coached myself in long jump,” Chappell said. “I’d watch videos on YouTube, and then I practice at the track twice a week.”
Chappell said she’s consistently hit around the 17-18-foot mark with each jump this season, but she hit her goal of over19 feet last year at the state meet.
“I certainly can’t take any credit for her success,” Jackson said. “If you put her in anything, she’ll excel. She’s been a leader on the team ever since the seventh grade, and for that she’s going to be missed.
“I expect big things out of her.”
Jackson said previous coach C.M. Sanford helped assist Chappell when it came time to look at scholarships. She said Sanford used connections he had after years of coaching. As a result, Chappell had offers from a long list of prestigious universities. But, she said she always had her eye on South Alabama.
“In 10th grade I went down there for a track camp, and I really enjoyed it and all of the coaches and facilities,” Chappell said. “They set me up with an official visit, and I went down there and toured everything and met with the other athletes. I just liked what I’ve been seeing and how they treat their kids.”
Jackson said she’d obviously miss having Chappell on the squad, but knows the impact Chappell had on the program will be long-lasting.
“I’m hoping people will see what she’s been able to do and it will help recruit other athletes and help build our program,” Jackson said. “She’s had so much success, and at the meets we’ve attended this year she’s always placed in at least one of them — just imagine what she can do at the college level.”
Chappell said she hopes to leave a lasting legacy on the program at Fort Payne, and she’s enjoyed being able to help lead younger girls in her senior season.
“I know I’ll have friendships from this that will never go away. It’s been the best ever,” Chappell said. “I’m proud of where the program is now, and I hope when the younger girls are my age they’ll break all of my records. I believe in these girls and I believe in this program.”
‘I’ll always going to be a Wildcat’
Keisy Trinidad said she’s always had a competitive spirit, and it was this desire for competition that led her to the track team.
“One of my friends, Than (Thompson), I had always played sports with her,” Trinidad said. “I always wanted to be better than her. She told me that she did the javelin, and I remember I was like, ‘I don’t even know what that is, but I want to do it.’ That’s what drew me into it.”
Trinidad competed against — and later with — Thompson and improved every single season since she first picked up the javelin in eighth grade. Last season, Trinidad qualified for the state meet, tossing distances of more than 100 feet. She said this was what got her noticed by track programs at other universities, and Trinidad inked a scholarship to the University of Montevallo on Wednesday at FPHS.
“(Montevallo) reached out to me and said that they had been watching me for a little bit,” she said. “They were a new program, but they had won their conference last year. I visited with them, and it just felt really homey and really friendly. I just got that feeling that I really fit in.”
Jackson said Trinidad has worked hard to earn her spot on the team. Jackson said, like Chappell, Trinidad has done a lot of self-teaching, as well.
“She works hard — she’s got a really good work ethic and she wants to succeed,” Jackson said. “I’m really excited for her. She wants to do it and the program is fairly good. I believe she’ll do really well.”
Trinidad’s mother, Nancy, said her daughter would be the first member of her family to go to college. She said she and her husband, Jesús, have done whatever they could to make sure their daughter has the best opportunities in life and she was proud of how far Keisy had come.
“I’ll always be there to support her,” Nancy said. “She’s the first in the family to go to college, and I know she’s going to be a very good example for her other sisters.”
Jackson said Keisy has been a solid example for her teammates, as well. She said Trinidad takes initiative with her teammates and always helps them when she can.
“She’s been great as far as helping the new javelin throwers,” Jackson said. “She always helps the younger (students) in junior high. She’s learned a lot on her own — I think she’s had about four different coaches in five years.”
Keisy she was thankful for all of those coaches and their help, though.
“I feel like anything is possible for this program. I mean, I came in here with a blank slate and look at me now,” Keisy said. “I just hope to see (Fort Payne track) get even bigger in the future — better than we ever were. I’m always going to be a Wildcat.”