by Ron Ingram, AHSAA
BIRMINGHAM – Hewitt-Trussville High School’s girls and Hoover High School’s girls went into the final race of the final session of the 51st AHSAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday night at the Birmingham CrossPlex Friday separated by just 31/2 points.
The 4×400-meter relay would prove to be the deciding factor in whether the Huskies or Bucs would claim the Class 7A girls’ state crown. Coach Tom Esslinger’s Hewitt girls had 93 points heading into the final event, and Coach Devin Hind’s Hoover girls had 90.5. The Bucs won the race with a 4:02.50 time, and the Huskies were second at 4:09.54. More important to Hewitt, however, were the eight points the Huskies claimed – giving the school its first-ever state indoor title 101.5 points to Hoover’s 100. Vestavia Hills finished third with 51 and Spain Park was fourth with 37.
Hewitt-Trussville’s boys went into the final race with a 9.5-point lead over Vestavia Hills and placed 4th in the 4×400 relay finale to claim the school’s first indoor state boys’ championship – also completing the school’s first sweep.
Esslinger’s boys closed out the 2021 state meet with 77.5 points to complete the school’s first sweep in school history. The Rebels, with senior Ethan Strand running the final leg, edged Hoover to win the race and finished second with 73 points. Hoover took third place with 73, Auburn and Huntsville tied for fourth with 41 points each.
Hewitt-Trussville long jumper Julian Collins cleared 24-07.25 on his last long jump of the night to win the event, setting a new school and Class 7A record by besting former Huskie Noah Igbinoghene’s 23-06 leap in the 2016 state meet and giving his team a 9.5-point lead heading to the final race of the night. Collins came up just ½ inch shy of the overall state record (24-07.75) by Murphy’s Anthony Carter in 1971 at Garrett Coliseum.
Hewitt senior Armoni Goodwin also set a new 7A state record with his 6.82 time in the 60-meter dash finals Saturday. Karon Delince of Central-Phenix City set the 7A mark at the 2017 state championships with a 6.84 time.
Ethan Strand started the Class 7A session off with a bang winning the 800-meter race in a state-record 1:51.07 time. The University of North Carolina signee needed it, however. Rebels teammate Alex Leath (1:52.72) finishes second and also broke the previous AHSAA overall indoor state-meet record (1:53.45) set by Chris Patrick of Smiths Station in 2004 at Priceville. Huntsville runner Gabe Scales (1:54.25) took third place. His time also surpassed the Class 7A indoor state meet record (1:54.69) established by Hoover’s Trent Hammer art the 2017 state meet. Strand also held the overall CrossPlex and state mark with his time of 1:52.91, which he run in a regular-season meet two weeks earlier on January 21.
Strand won the 1,600 meters with a 4:17.47 time – just ahead of Scales at 4:19.30 and just shy of the AHSAA Class 7A state indoor meet record of 4:17.06 set by Hoover’s Drew Williams at the 2016 championships.
Malik Johnson of Central-Phenix City won the high jump clearing 6-08. The Red Devils also captured the 4×200 boys relay title with a 1:30.36 time – edging just past James Clemens (1:30.41) at the finish line to win.
Huntsville won the 4×800 boys relay with a winning with a 7:59.73, just two seconds shy of the state-record time of 7:57.93 recorded by Smiths Station in 2007 at the last indoor meet held at Priceville.
Hoover picked 15 points in the pole vault with Levi Arroyo taking first place clearing 15-06. Dominique Hall and Blake Ellis of Thompson and Conner White of the Bucs each cleared 15 feet.
In the boys’ shot put action, Fairhope’s Hagan LeDrew had his winning 54-01.75 toss in his fourth try. Runner-up Tanveer Raza Hewitt-Trussville fired his 53-05.50 toss in his fifth try.
Auburn’s Patrick Sweeney won the ambulatory 60-meter dash with a 10.35 time. He also won the 7A ambulatory shot put with a toss of 19-06.2.
In the girls’ competition, Vestavia Hills junior Crawford West swept the distance races setting 7A indoor state-meet records in two of her victories. She set a new 7A state-meet mark in the 800 meters with a winning 2:12.93 time. Spain Park’s MacKenzie Culpepper finished second with 2:13.45 time – falling just short of the previous record (2:13.19) set by Hoover’ Presley Weems in 2016. The overall record (2:11.28) was established by McGill-Toolen Catholic’s Carmen Carlos competing in the Class 6A indoor state meet in 2013.
Vestavia’s West also won the 1,600 with the state meet’s only sub-5 minute time of the weekend (4:59.58), to set a new 7A state record (4:59.96) set by Anna Grace Morgan of Mountain Brook at the 2017 championships. West closed her day setting a new 7A 3,200 meters record with her winning time of 10:58.27 – eclipsing the 7A standard (10:58.97) established by Mountain Brook’s Morgan, also in 2017.
Aniyah Kitt of Enterprise won the 60-meter dash with a 7.74 time – just short of the 7A state record (7.65) set by Sparkman sprinter Lauryn Hall in 2018.
Spain Park’s Culpepper won the 400-meter dash with a photo finish beating runner-up Kelsey Martin of Hewitt-Trussville. She clocked 57.25 seconds winning with a last-second lean. Martin crossed at 57.30 seconds. Hewitt’s Martin closed out her day winning the girls’ long jump title – going over 18 feet in her last three jumps, including a leap of 18-04 on her fifth try. No other participant managed an 18-foot distance.
Photos via Hewitt-Trussville Athletics