The Fort Payne girls track and field team wouldn’t be denied its seventh consecutive sectional championship.

Highlighted by the 4x400-meter relay team shattering a 33-year-old school record, the Fort Payne girls captured their seventh sectional title in a row at the Class 6A, Section 4 meet at Fort Payne High School on Saturday.

The Fort Payne girls had 17 athletes qualify for the 6A state meet, which begins Thursday in Gulf Shores. Five Fort Payne boys qualified for the meet with strong sectional performances.

“We are hoping for some more record-breaking performances at Gulf Shores this weekend,” Wildcats coach Selena Penton said.

Rain forced Fort Payne High School to reschedule plans for the sectional meet. All field events were completed Friday prior to the forecasted rain, while track events were postponed until noon Saturday. 

Clocking in at 4:02, the Fort Payne girls broke the previous 4x400-meter race record of 4:04, set in 1988. On Saturday, the record-setting 4x400 team consisted of Madi Wallace, Ruthie Jones, Maddie Jackson and Maggie Groat.

Penton said the girls have been anticipating breaking the 4x400 record on home turf all season.

“They ran 4:07 at the second meet of the season at Vestavia Hills, and every time since then has been 4:09-4:10,” Penton said. “Madi Wallace has consistently been running sub-60 splits, so we knew we could count on that. The other girls knew they would need a 1:01 split or better to break the record. 

“I clocked Madi at 58 seconds for the first leg. Then when I clocked Ruthie at 1 minute flat, I knew that it was the day.” 

Jackson ran third and Groat last. Groat’s final 100 meters brought a swelling of cheers from the crowd. 

“The support of the home crowd was definitely an advantage to the girls,” Penton said. ...It was a coaching moment that I will not soon forget.”

Wallace finished the sectional accounting for two individual first-place medals and an individual second-place medal, while additionally helping the 4x400 team win gold.

Wallace placed first in the 100-meter hurdles (15.03 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (46.21), and finished second in the long jump (16 feet, 10 inches).

Jackson had three first-place finishes, including one individual win in the 800-meter run (2:24.82). She ran a leg of the record-breaking 4x400-meter relay race and helped the 4x800 team place first. She added a second-place finish in the 1600-meter run (5:26.92).

Groat won the high jump (5-2) in addition to a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles (47.61) and a part of the 4x400 team’s winning run. 

Jackson, Anahi Barboza, Reese McCurdy and Abigail Vega combined to win the 4x800-meter race (10:09.83).

Lennon Ibsen and Jordan Strogov won the pole-vaulting competition, leaping 10 feet, 6 inches. Ibsen was second in the triple jump (35-2).

Brylan Gray won the shot put event, tossing 39 feet, 7 inches, and adding a third-place finish in the discus throw (102-6). Teammate Mckenna Jackson placed fifth in the shot put.

Cooper Garrett placed first in the javelin throw (109-4), Harleigh Sullivan was second (107-2) and Bella Weaver was fifth (98-5).

“We were the best ones Saturday, but we have to be the best ones next Saturday, because that’s when it counts,” Fort Payne assistant coach C.M. Sanford said.

On the boys’ side, Darrell Prater threw the javelin 164 feet, 8 inches during his finals competition Friday, earning a state wild card berth with a sixth-place effort in the discus throw (117-11).

Joining Prater as Fort Payne boys state qualifiers were Malik Turner, Arturo Rodriguez Lopez, Owen Pettis and Kobe King.

Turner’s leap of 6 feet, 2 inches notched him a second-place finish in the high jump.  

Pettis placed fourth in the 400-meter dash (52.03 seconds) and fifth in the 200-meter dash (22.99).

In the 800-meter run, Rodriguez Lopez finished sixth in the 800-meter run (2:04.30), earning a wild card spot at the state competition. 

King placed fifth in the triple jump (41-4).

The Fort Payne boys’ 4x100-meter relay team capped Saturday with a fifth-place finish (45.84). The team consisted of Bennett Blanks, Patrick Sherrill, King and Turner.

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