So far this school year Fort Payne’s jump from Class 5A to Class 6A hasn’t bothered the Wildcats.
They made the state playoffs in football, super regionals in volleyball, regional finals in girls basketball and had nine wrestlers qualify for the state tournament.
Kenny Chadwick and the track and field team have the same expectations for their upcoming season despite entering the tough Class 6A division.
“I don’t think it has phased this group at all,” Chadwick said. “At Fort Payne when we go out there and lace them up then we expect to compete at our best no matter what classification we’re in.”
Last year was a solid year for Fort Payne and this year Chadwick expects it to be much of the same, but there will be some rebuilding in certain events.
Chadwick and the Wildcats got the track year off to a nice start in the indoor season earlier this month with the girls 4x800 team winning a state championship and the boys 4x800 team placed seventh despite having a lot of inexpereince. Also, Sydney Fobbus placed third in the pole vault.
Weather has haulted the teams ability to practice, along with basketball season just ending, but Chadwick likes where his team is.
“Honestly, with the weather we haven’t been able to do a lot,” Chadwick said. “Especially with the basketball season just ending we’ve had some that haven’t had a full practice yet. We’ve got a lot of pieces coming back and I think we’re deeper in spots than we’ve ever been.”
The girls will be returning a lot of talent from last season. The girls were able to win sectionals last year and the 4x800 team won its second consecutive state championship along with Sheldonna Chappell winning state in the 100 meter.
“The 4x8 team has all the same girls back and I think they can be better this year,” Chadwick said. “Last year we had a junior, two freshman and a seventh grader on that team. This year we have about three or four girls that can make it on that team, so we’re a lot deeper.
Sheldonna Chappell won state last year in the 100 meter, and she’s just a junior. We think she can still improve a lot. She placed in three events last year and we think she can do that again this year.”
Olivia Thurman will be leading the talented 4x8 team as she begins her senior season.
“She’s been a leader for us since she was a seventh grader and has the school record in the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter,” Chadwick said. “She’s been running for six years and she’s someone we really look to.”
The boys will return a lot, but they also lost a lot.
The boys distance runners are a completely new group with not a lot of experience.
“The boys distance is completely rebuilt,” Chadwick said. “We lost our whole distance group and this year they are very young. They’ll have to make a lot of strides to compete. But we have a lot of kids that are working hard and should get there.”
Fort Payne’s sprinters, though, will have a lot of not only experience but talent also in Desmon Turner, Wanya King, Daurice Maddox and Trea Prater.
“Our sprinters are all football players and basketball players and they were on the verge of being very good last year, but they were all young,” Chadwick said. “This year the oldest one is a junior and I look for them to carry us on the boys side.”
Another big deal for the team will be them hosting sectionals for the first time in more than 15 years. Chadwick said that will be a big step for the program.
“We haven’t had the sectionals here since the ‘90s,” Chadwick said. “We hadn’t won sectionals in 19 years until last year, and I think the state rewarded us for that. It’s a big deal for our team and I thank the administration and the superintendent for helping us get this. It will go a long way for our program.”
Fort Payne’s first meet of the year was cancelled because of weather and the next meet will be March 7 at Hoover.