Fort Payne did it again.
The Fort Payne girls 4x800 meter relay team brought home its third straight state championship at the Class 6A state track and field meet in Gulf Shores with a time of 9:43.57, which set a new school record.
It was no easy feat, with the team having to beat out perennial power Pelham in a dramatic race.
Collyn Davis and Gracie Groat built a comfortable lead for the team in the first two legs, and then Maggie Crow was passed in the third leg before regaining the lead just before handing the baton off to Olivia Thurman for the final leg.
Thurman surrendered the lead to Pelham early, but then turned on the jets late to power Fort Payne to a comfortable lead and the state title.
“Olivia ran a very gutsy race,” Fort Payne coach Kenny Chadwick said. “She beat out the No. 1 runner in the state, Olivia is elite as well but she had to go out and pass her at the end. It was one of those moments you’ll never forget. Unbelievable.”
Chadwick said the team had the talent to go out and claim the title, but it was their mental approach to the race that got them the victory.
“They ran as smart of a race as they could,” Chadwick said. “Coach (C.M.) Sanford deserves a lot of credit for that. He did a great job setting up the line up and telling them how they needed to run that race. Every one of them ran an awesome race. I don’t think anybody else thought they could do that, but we held our own.”
Sheldonna Chappell soared to new heights by setting the new school record in the long jump with a distance of more than 19 feet, earning her a silver medal. Her official distance was 19-01.75, which was second to Homewood’s Kiara Williams who jumped 20–05.25. Chappell was the 5A state champion in the 100 and 200 meter dash in 2014.
Her performance will set her up as the No. 1 recruit in the state next season and the No. 15 recruit in the nation.
“Sheldonna is the fastest girl that’s ever come through Fort Payne High School,” Chadwick said. “Her jumping 19 feet was one of the craziest things I’ve seen. This summer we’ll get her in some junior Olympics and let her continue to compete and generate some interest from schools.”
As a team, the Lady Wildcats placed fifth overall in 6A with a total team score of 39 points. Homewood took home the title with a score of 122.50.
Chadwick was very pleased with the performance but thought the team could have pulled out a third place finish. After making the jump to 6A this season he was more than happy to come away with a top-5 finish.
“I’m just really proud of them,” Chadwick said. “This is the best girls team I think Fort Payne has ever assembled. They are a great group of kids and everybody contributed from seventh grade all the way to seniors. It wasn’t just one person, it took the whole group.”
On the boy’s side senior Bradley Green had another awesome performance in the javelin, taking home a silver medal. He set the school record at sectionals last week and threw a distance of 50.62m at the state meet.
“Bradley has always been solid for us,” Chadwick said. “It’s the second time he’s placed at state and we’re really going to miss him. He’s a great young man.”
More school records:
In addition to the school records set in the 4x8 and the long jump, Fort Payne went on to set six school records total at the state meet.
Davis set the school record in the 800 meter and Thurman in the 1,600. The 4x100 meter relay team also set a new record and Sydney Fobbus set a school record in the pole vault at sectionals last week.
Missing team member:
Maegan Dorsett, who was a part of the two previous state titles for the 4x8 team did not run this year because of an injury.
Here are the top finishers:
4x800 meter relay- Collyn Davis, Gracie Groat, Maggie Crow and Olivia Thurman (first, 9:43.57) School record
Long Jump- Sheldonna Chappell (second, 19-01) School record
800 meter- Collyn Davis (fourth, 2:18.26) school record, Olivia Thurman (fifth, 2:19.23)
1,600 meter- Olivia Thurman (third, 5:17.06) school record
4x400 meter relay- Laura Ellen Rigdon, Collyn Davis, Ariyana Neal and Olivia Thurman (fourth, 4:11.15)
4x100 meter relay- Cassie Jones, Sheldonna Chappell, Laura Ellen Rigdon and Ariyana Neal (11th, 51.01) School record.
Javelin- Bradley Green (Second, 50.62 meters)
4x400 meter relay- (15th, 3:34.72)