The Fort Payne Wildcats hosted 17 other schools in a track meet a week ago, and, true to form, the ‘Cats were among the top of the pack.
More than 650 athletes competed in “Friday Night Lights” at the Fort Payne track in 18 separate boys and girls’ events.
The Lady ‘Cats finished first and the boys’ teams finished 10th overall. Despite the 10th place finish, head coach Ashley Jackson said she was pleased with the young and incomplete team.
Plus, the schools were no pushover either, Jackson’s team squared off against top programs from Madison, Jackson and other surrounding counties.
The meet started at 4 p.m. and ran through the night, and up under the lights at Fort Payne High School Football Stadium.
Jackson said the event was widely successful, which is due largely in part to the volunteers who worked for countless hours to put the meet together.
“It couldn’t have been such a success without them,” Jackson said. “We have some people out there that don’t even have kids, and they volunteer their time to help put on this meet.”
It was the ‘Cats last meet before sectionals, which will be held today and tomorrow in Scottsboro.
Jackson said eighth grader Maggie Crow paced the ‘Cats with two first-place finishes in her big events, the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.
“Maggie is our top miler and two-miler,” Jackson said. “She won both of those events, and she set a new school record.”
Crow crossed the finish line with a time of 12:01.54 in the 3,200-meter run, which was 14 seconds faster than second place.
“We really didn’t even know it at the time, and it was kind of late when we left, so we looked at the record board later, and then we saw where she had broken the school record by several seconds,” Jackson said. “I honestly think she’s going to break it again when she goes to the sectional meet. She’s a dual athlete (soccer), and she has the potential to be a multi state champion if she sticks with it.”
In the girls’ 4x800, an event in which the ‘Cats are defending 6A state champions, Fort Payne again dominated the field with a time of 10:12.89, which was 21 seconds better than second place.
Jackson also noted quality performances from Thanne Thompson and Keisy Trinidad in the javelin finals.
Junior Ariyana Neal placed second in the girls’ 300-meter and took first in the 100-meter, and Jackson said Neal is currently in the best shape she’s ever been in time for sectional meet.
“I can’t say enough about (Neal),” Jackson said. “She’s been with us since the seventh grade, and she’s probably in the best shape she’s ever been.
“She’s seeded third in our sectional meet, and she should shine (Friday) and Saturday,” Jackson said.
For the boys’ team, Jackson said Benny Lopez set a personal goal breaking the five-minute mark in the mile. She said it was something he’s worked hard to do all season long, and she was “so glad he did it at our home meet.”
She said Lopez and hurdler Matthew Shaddix were two she believed had a great chance at qualifying for the state meet.
But, before state is even an option, Jackson’s team will compete with the field at Scottsboro.
“We have probably the strongest section in Class 6A,” Jackson said. “They will take the top five who qualify to the state meet, and then after that you have probably four ‘Wild Cards,’ and I’d say probably about 75-80 percent of the time the Wild Card will come from our section. Everyone says our section is the toughest, and I believe it.”