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April 16, 2013

CULLMAN COUNTY TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIP: Boland, Steele lead Vinemont to title; Still, Cold Springs girls win 2nd straight

COLD SPRINGS — The naming of co-MVPs is far from unique at the Cullman County Track and Field Championship.

Having both come from the same school, however? Now that doesn’t happen every day.

Tyler Boland and T.J. Steele swept all four of their respective events on Tuesday to split top individual honors and lead Vinemont’s boys to a coveted team title. The Eagles finished with a comfy 79-point cushion over second-place Cold Springs.

“We’ve got distance runners that are taking care of business, throwers that are taking care of business,” said Boland, who won the triple jump, long jump and 100- and 200-meter dashes. “Everybody is helping each other out. After a couple years of us just being individuals, it feels good actually being a team. It’s so much more fun that way.”

While Boland wrapped up his 40-point performance relatively early, Steele couldn’t rest easy until the very last race of the day. With titles in the 300-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash and 800-meter run already to his credit, the freshman phenom served as the anchor in Vinemont’s 4x400-meter relay team, quickly closing the gap and leaving the competition in the dust en route to the finish line.

“I was just thinking God’s with me. He’s pushing me through this, and He did,” Steele said of the final lap. “He gave me the extra boost of energy. Looking up at him, I just had that feeling, ‘Hey, you got this if you follow me,’ and I did.”

To put Boland and Steele’s co-MVP accomplishment into better perspective, the duo’s combined total of 80 points was enough to outscore four different schools on their own. Throw in a county title by Nathan Handley in the 2-mile run and another relay victory — Zach Drake, Kyle Dyer, Wayne Partian and Char Stevens were first in the 4x800-meter race — and there were never any doubts that Vinemont would be the squad to end Cold Springs’ eight-year run as champs.

“I’m telling you right now, all of work so hard, it’s amazing,” Steele said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. It’s all family.”

The usual suspects were to thank for the home team’s runner-up result. Kramer Crider was the top dog in the 1-mile run, while Logan Campbell cleared the bar at 11 feet to win the pole vault.

A pair of county championships by mega-man Sheldon Lewis in the shot put and discus propelled Hanceville to third as a team. Corey Barbee, Eric Flanigan, Torrey Green and Chris Smith teamed up to help the Bulldogs defend their title in the 4x100-meter relay.

Fairview landed in fourth place, followed by Good Hope, Holly Pond and West Point.

The Aggies’ Brady Johnson was No. 1 in the 110-meter hurdles, as was the Raiders’ Justin Turner in the high jump. The Broncos’ Whitehead rounded out the boys’ champions by besting the field in the javelin.

Unlike her male counterparts, Cassi Still didn’t have to share her MVP status with anyone. The Cold Springs’ junior earned the maximum 40 points with individual wins in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs to go along with a relay victory in the 4x800-meter race. She was joined by Emily Campbell, Katie Huffstutler and Josie Stanley in that last event.

“I’ve been wanting it since seventh grade,” an excited Still said of being recognized as MVP. “Right now, I’ve still got that jitterness. All I want to do now is do my best at sectional and state.”

To a team player like Still, contributing to a second-straight county championship for Cold Springs’ girls meant just as much as any individual feat ever could. The Lady Eagles, who also received titles from Courtney Dean (pole vault) and Dakota Lott (triple jump), wound up with a whopping 209 points, 89 more than runner-up Holly Pond.

“Yes, on the track, me and Emily (Campbell) are fighting for first place, but then again, we love each other and we’re going to push each other because we’re a team,” Still said of her long-distance sidekick. “All I can do is be proud of my team and be proud of myself, even if I don’t get a PR in every single event. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I have my team behind me. I love them so much.”

The young and speedy Broncos were easily the feel-good story of this year’s county meet, riding a win by Taylor Johnson, Sarah Nava, Starsha Trimble and Savanah Reid in the 4x400-meter relay to edge Fairview for second place by a single point.

Melissa Clingman (100- and 300-meter hurdles) and Mykenzie Heaton (100- and 200-meter dashes) both went home with a pair of championships, while Megan Barksdale rounded out Holly Pond’s list of individual victors by crossing the line first in the 400-meter dash.

Heaton, Clingman, Trimble and Barksdale added a county title in the 4x100-meter relay.

After the third-place Aggies came Vinemont, West Point, Hanceville and Good Hope.

Vinemont’s Alex Pettus was the girl to beat in the discus and javelin, while teammate Karlie Cupp launched herself to first in the long jump.

The Warriors also sported a pair of champs. Taylor McManus grabbed the title in the shot put, and Erica Laidley set the bar in the high jump.

See below for top 3 results and team winners.

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