Mother Nature was Trent Dean's best friend at the outset of the Cullman Classic on Monday.
After being forced to postpone the large-scale event a little more than a week earlier due to sleet and wintry weather, the Bearcats' main man sat back and soaked in the spring sun as 21 teams and nearly 750 student-athletes ascended on Oliver Woodard Stadium for an evening full of competition.
“That’s probably one of the big positives of changing the day of the meet,” Dean said of Monday’s perfect 70-degree conditions. “This is excellent because I remember that Friday (March 22), it was cold and windy.”
Without a home track of its own to practice or compete on, Vinemont’s boys have made the most of its two meets at Cullman’s state-of-the-art facility. The Eagles ran away with the Cullman Invitational in mid-March and claimed another small-school title on Monday, finishing nine points ahead of second-place Tanner.
Highlighting the Red and White’s victory was superstar Tyler Boland, who finished second in all four of his events — triple jump, long jump, 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash. His 32-point outburst allowed him to walk away with small-school boys’ MVP honors.
“He’s the best boy athlete I’ve ever coached,” Vinemont’s Robin Netherton said of Boland. “He’s the perfect combination of talent, hard work and character.”
The Eagles had four other student-athletes achieve top-three results. Troy Steele coasted to second in the 400- and 800-meter races, while Hayden Shutt finished in the same position in the pole vault. Trey Guthery tied for second in the high jump, and Bo Wright rounded out the group with third place in the javelin.
“You’re allowed 10 meets a year, and we usually go to 10 track meets because that’s practice for us. Most schools don’t do that, but for us, we’re going to three this week,” Netherton said of his trackless squad, which is scheduled to also participate at Fairview on Tuesday and at Cold Springs on Friday. “We try to go to the schools with the best facility and the best competition so we can prevent injury and get better. This is the best of the best.”
Vinemont’s boys weren’t the only local Eagles to head back home with a winner’s trophy, with Cold Springs also pulling off the feat in the small-school girls division.
Three Blue and Gold girls were victorious in at least one event, anchored by a pair of wins by Cassi Still in the 1- and 2-mile runs. Dakota Lott bested the field in the 300-meter hurdles to go along with a third-place spot in the 100-meter hurdles, and Josie Stanley was the girl to beat in the 400-meter dash.
Payton Strawbridge (pole vault), Christian Wilson (high jump) and Alexis Smith (pole vault) all tied for second in their respective events. Emily Campbell was right up near the front with still in the long-distance races, taking third in the 1- and 2-mile runs. Katie Self unleashed a third-place throw in the discus.
Hanna Harbison, Katie Huffstutler, Lott and Kaleigh Merring combined for a victory in the 4x400-meter relay.
A whopping 10 boys from Cullman corralled top-three finishes to help the Bearcats finish second in the big-school division behind James Clemons. Chris Johnson was a two-time winner in his throwing events (discus and shot put), while Garrison Hill catapulted his way to No. 1 in the pole vault.
Mark Gomez strode to second and third in the 1- and 2-mile runs. Nicholas Fillinger just barely edged his teammate for second in the 2-mile. Matthew Huddleston joined the group with a second-place result in the 800-meter run, the same position Michael Bentley grabbed in the triple jump, as did Ryan Hagood in the shot put. Devan Hall (1-mile), Stephen McNeal (800-meter run) and Daniel Johnson (discus) rounded out the Black and Gold’s top-three finishers.
Hall, McNeal, Huddleston and Gomez were easy winners in the 4x800-meter relay.
Cullman’s girls completed a successful night for the home school by taking third in the big-school competition. Savannah L. Smith and Julia Masters led the way for the Bearcats with respective wins in the javelin and the 300-meter hurdles.
The best of the rest was Emma Doss with a pair of second-place spots in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Hillary Crider (2-mile) and Kelsey Wren (high jump) were also runners-up, while Anna Bailey (2-mile), Olivia Kontogeorge (triple jump) and Laura Addison (pole vault) contributed third-place finishes.
Crider, Marisa Franklin, Megan Pendley and Savannah B. Smith teamed up for first in the 4x800-meter relay.
Summer Hinton had two of Addison’s girls three victories to propel the Bulldogs to third in the small-school portion of the meet. Hinton’s successes came in the high jump and discus, while Kendre Hammack joined the party in the 100-meter hurdles.
Emee Baldwin roped in second in the 300-meter hurdles and triple jump, as did Jessica Taylor in the javelin and Kayren Ballard in the shot put.
Addison landed in fourth on the boys side, with Jesse Seales delivering the team’s only victory in the high jump. Ronnie Willette was a beast in his two throwing events, finishing second in the discus and third in the shot put. Tony Brown was third in the high jump.
St. Bernard’s girls swept the top-four places in the 800-meter run en route to fourth in the small-school division. Logan Ayers won the event, followed by teammates Caitlyn Varquez, Morgan Matz and Cailin O’Donnell.
Varquez also paced herself to second in the 400-meter dash, the same position Jaden Edge reached in the 2-mile run and Ayleana Mami obtained in the 1-mile race. Isabella Cline snagged third in the 400-meter dash.
Ayers, Edge, Mami and Matz started the meet with a win in the 4x800-meter relay.
Hanceville’s boys were the last local team to earn a top-five finish, riding a pair of victories from both Sheldon Lewis (discus and shot put) and Chris Smith (100- and 200-meter dashes). No one came within almost 20 feet of Lewis in the discus.
Logan Campbell still stands alone in the pole vault after winning the event for Cold Springs on Monday. Kramer Crider was second in the 1-mile run, and Vince Stewart flew to third in the triple jump.
Will Faulk appears primed and ready to defend his state titles in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. The St. Bernard senior crossed the line first in all three events once again in his latest effort.
Melissa Clingman and Megan Barksdale represent Holly Pond’s girls well with respective second-place finishes in the 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash. Fellow Bronco Mykenzie Heaton was third in the long jump.
Alex Pettus (javelin) and Breanna Barnett (300-meter hurdles) soared to third in their respective events for Vinemont’s girls, while Dauriel Harwood had Holly Pond’s boys top result by tying for sixth in the high jump.
Local schools haven’t always chosen to attend track and field events hosted by Cullman High, but Dean couldn’t have been more thrilled to have six from the county in the field on Monday.
“We were very excited to see that they were coming out, and we hope that they continue to,” the coach said. “Essentially what we want to do is run a great meet so that we can all get good competition here locally.”
This year’s version of the Cullman Classic wrapped up at around 11:15 p.m. on Monday night, which was a much-improved conclusion considering last year’s 1 or 2 a.m. finish. Dean said late nights like those are part of what make track and field such a unique sport.
“The kids act like they’re complaining, but they’re kind of not,” the coach said with a laugh. “It’s kind of like they’re bragging a little bit.”
According to a quick glance on social media, the coach was correct, whether he was kidding or not.
“We shouldn’t have to go to school if we were up all night at a track meet. (hashtag) trackprobs,” Cold Springs’ Campbell joked on Twitter Tuesday morning.
See local top-eight individual and top-three relay results from Monday’s Cullman Classic below:
PREP TRACK & FIELD: Vinemont boys, Cold Springs girls claim Cullman Classic small-school titles (WITH PHOTO GALLERY)
Mother Nature was Trent Dean's best friend at the outset of the Cullman Classic on Monday.
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