The Fort Payne High School track team will be hosting their first home meet of the season Thursday at the Northeast Alabama Invitational sponsored by Turf Tamer.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams will face stiff competition from some of the most talented teams in the state.
Homewood brings an elite program whose girls’ team won the Class 6A Outdoor State Championship a year and will give themselves a chance to win in nearly every event.
Pelham’s girls were Class 6A’s runner-up from last year and Paul Bryant was a top-five finisher at last year’s state meet. Both teams will also challenge the Wildcats on Thursday.
Cleveland High School from Cleveland, Tennessee will also bring a challenge with one the top-rated teams from the volunteer state.
Fort Payne will also be fighting off sickness to perform well at the meet.
“Our team got off to a good start but weather and the flu has set us back some,” Fort Payne head coach Ashley Jackson said. “Our conditioning is not what it should be. For our girls, the throwers have really improved and got us points in the first three meets.”
Those throwers include Mikia Williams in the discus, Makirah Hall and Lexi Cotrell in the shot and Nykeia McElrath and Bailey Barnes in the javelin.
Abigail Johnston has done well in the triple jump and pole vault to gain points for the Lady Wildcats this season as well. She’s currently nursing a hamstring issue, but it hasn’t slowed her down in practice.
Madi Wallace has also been a pleasant surprise for the team thus far. She earned her team some extra points by winning the 300-meter hurdles at the team’s first meet at Paul Bryant in her first time ever competing in the event.
Gracie and Maggie Groat have been battling the flu, but will return this week to help the 4x800-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams.
They’ll have the odds stacked against them as Homewood and Paul Bryant bring the top-ranked relay teams in the state.
The boys team is a youthful group featuring Matthew Shaddix, Will Crow, Carter Pinholster, Jayden Parris, Israel Velazquez and Colton Wells.
“I think we can end up with some strong performances,” Jackson said. “But it is early, and everybody has a lot of work to do to get where we want to be by the Sectional Meet.”
That Sectional Meet will also be held at Wildcat Stadium on April 28-29.
“This meet is a big test for us early in the season,” Jackson said. “Our main concern is to not be intimidated and run some of our best times of the year.”