Fort Payne High School set out three years ago to make sure they put their track athletes on the biggest stages possible every time they competed.
They wanted to compete against the best week in and week out, and they wanted to do it at home much as possible.
Saturday all of the hard work to make this happen will be in full bloom when the Wildcats host the third annual Heil Northeast Alabama Invitational at Wildcat Stadium.
Twenty teams from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee with more than 600 athletes expected to attend.
Head Fort Payne track coach said this was exactly what they envisioned three years ago.
“I sat down with Mr. Jett three years ago and we decided we wanted our athletes on the biggest stage at the biggest meets,” Chadwick said. “Since then we have not gone to any small meets and we have developed this into a great meet.”
Leading the charge in developing this meet was meet director C.M. Sanford.
“We have a great meet director in Coach Sanford,” Chadwick said. “This is by far the biggest meet we’ve ever had. We’ve had to move the concessions from the upper concession stands to the lower one and move everything around as well. We have a new shot put area, our facilities are the best and that’s why we have people come compete.”
The teams in attendance will be Anniston, Arab, Baylor School, Brooks, Cedar Bluff, Cumberland County, Darlington School Gaylesville, Lincoln, Moody, Paul W. Bryant High School, Piedmont, Pisgah, Pleasant Valley, Sardis, Scottsboro, Section, Southside, and Tullahoma.
Chadwick said getting all 20 schools from the state is sometimes difficult when figure in travel time for schools. That’s why they had to branch out to out-of state schools.
“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with the Chattanooga private schools,” Chadwick said. “With us being in Northeast Alabama it’s difficult for us to get teams from our classification to travel to Fort Payne on a track team’s budget. We try to get teams from the Tennessee and Georgia area, but we also have Paul W. Bryant from Tuscaloosa coming and they have one of the best teams in the state.”
Fort Payne will be bringing plenty of talent to the meet, though, especially on the girls side.
The Wildcats have competed in two meets so far this season in the Hoover Optimist Relays and the King of the Mountain Invitational at Vestavia. At Hoover the girls placed fourth and the boys ninth and at Vestavia the girls placed third and the boys 22nd.
The three-time state champions girls 4x800 meter relay team have placed first at the last six meets they’ve competed in, and they will be looking to dot the same Saturday.
“That’s been really special,” Chadwick said. “That’s what we hang our hats on and they are already running their times from last year. I look for us to break all the school records in relays.”
Also sprinter Sheldonna Chappell and javelin thrower Keisy Trinidad will be looking to do well.
On the boys side Chadwick may be looking to shake things up and move athletes to different events with them being in a rebuilding year. Chadwick said he’s seeing progress but the team is young especially with the distance runners.
“We’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle but we aren’t sure what the picture is yet,” Chadwick said. “We may need to move some of our pieces around. Anytime you lose what we lost on the boy’s side last year then there is going to be some young runners behind them. We may need to move some of our sprinters to distance because we want to be competitive.”
The meet will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wildcat Stadium