Members of the Fort Payne track team had one “last chance” to qualify for the state indoor competition this past weekend.
The team participated in the two-day Last Chance Invitational at the Birmingham Crossplex on Friday and Saturday against hundreds of other students from schools across the state.
Head coach Ashley Jackson said she brought a small team to the Last Chance Invitational. She said several of the other team members had participated last month at the Icebreaker Invitational in Birmingham and had already qualified for their events.
Jackson said Saturday the team qualified in the girls’ 4x400 and the 4x800 relay, and they enter the state meet this weekend ranked fourth in Class 6A.
She said the 4x400 team, which was made up of Collyn Davis, Gracie Groat, Maddie Wallace and Ari Neal, qualified Saturday, but that senior Sheldonna Chappell will replace Groat this weekend.
“Sheldonna will be competing at the state meet, and she already qualified for the 60-dash and the long jump,” Jackson said. “The team is ranked No. 4 in indoor state going into this weekend, and they have a good shot at medaling.”
Jayden Parris and Matthew Shaddix each participated in the invitational for the boys’ division.
Parris will compete as a member of the boys’ 4x800 team, and Shaddix will race the 60m hurdles at this upcoming weekend’s state meet.
At the competition, the team has the chance to take home its second-straight indoor 4x800 championship.
Fort Payne will compete again this May for the opportunity to take home the title for the fourth time in the outdoor meet.
Groat, Davis and Maggie Crow are gearing up to run in the 4x800 relay again, and they are picking up 12-year-old Maddie Wallace to replace last year’s state champion, Olivia Thurman.
“(Wallace) is the newbie on there,” Jackson said. “She qualified for the 400-dash, as well, and as a 12-year-old that’s astounding.
“Yes, we’re trying to win the state championship with a 12-year-old, but I know we have a shot, and they’ve been training really hard. We’ll just have to try it and see.”
Jackson said the most difficult thing about training this year has been the erratic weather conditions.
“It’s been tough trying to train the way our weather has been, and we’ve kind of had to improvise,” Jackson said. “The Birmingham schools that we compete with all the time have indoor facilities.
“It’s been tough when you don’t have those, and you only have so many places you can go when it rains, but we’re going to make the best of it.
“Our main goal is to be ready come May, but they all want the state indoor championship again, and I feel like they definitely have a shot at it.”