By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Nearly three months to the day after suffering an MCL tear in his left knee, Tyler Boland stood calmly at the end of the runway in the Birmingham Crossplex, ready to show what he was made of in the triple jump at Friday's state indoor track and field championship.
The Vinemont junior had been nervous earlier in the day, but his jitters were long gone by the time he began his first attempt. With his fellow competitors clapping slowly at first and increasing the tempo as Boland barreled down the lane, he exploded from just behind the launch line for his first of three jumps, following through with just as much momentum on the next two to land in the back half of the sand pit. Boland immediately popped up, emphatically clapped his hands once, hurried back to the line and stood over the official as he measured the distance.
When the Eagle speedster saw where the judge had stopped the measuring tape, he let out a hearty, “Yeah!” and unleashed a victorious double fist pump. Seconds later, the crowd was let in on Boland's distance — 45'8.75”, a new indoor state record by a whopping 3.5 feet.
“They got the clap going, and I was feeling it,” he said. “I've jumped over that (the preceding record) before, but to jump it and get a state record with a PR by a foot, it felt good.”
That was just the first of Boland's three jumps in the preliminary round, and he only went back out for one more try in the finals before deciding to forego his last two attempts. Three of those four distances bested the previous state record, and no other boy came within even 4.5 feet of his top mark, securing the state indoor title in the Class 1A-4A triple jump for the Vinemont track star.
Each of Boland's attempts were entertaining, but none more so than the first — and the Eagle was only partially to thank for that. The rest of the credit went to a pair of officials, who created a bit of drama by accidentally sweeping away most of Boland's mark in the pit before the authoritative medal tape could be brought over to verify the record-breaking jump. Needless to say, the confusion made Boland's experience far more nerve-racking than he had expected.
“It was a little when he said, 'Wait, did you just take that out?' and she goes, 'Oh, hold on, I still see the hole,'” the student-athlete recalled. “I was kind of scared for a minute, but when she said she found the hole, and he said I was good, I was like, 'Whew.'”
Competing for a state championship was the last thing on Boland's mind three months earlier, the night he suffered a devastating 70-percent tear in his left MCL during the Vinemont football team's regular season finale. The versatile athlete was understandably crushed when he was told he had to sit out the Eagles' playoff game one week later.
Upon his return to the indoor track and field season, Boland didn't appear to miss a beat, regularly posting 42-inch jumps. His knee still didn't feel 100 percent, however, until the Saturday before the state meet, when Boland acquired a new personal best at the Last Chance Invitational.
“Last week, I felt like I did last year in my legs, good and explosive,” he said. “It felt even better this week.”
Like most elite athletes, Boland puts in the hard work required to be successful. However, the high-schooler also credits his father, Mike Boland, for continuing to push his son, even when that son doesn't always respond in an appreciative manner.
“I know I kind of get mad at him for making me do all this stuff,” Tyler said with a chuckle. “But it pays off. The more I think about it, I'm glad he does it. I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for my dad putting in so much work.”
Boland will look to double up on gold medals today in the long jump competition. He enters as the top seed with his best-ever flight of 20'5” at last week's meet.
Trey Guthery, Boland's Vinemont teammate, also reached the finals in the triple jump. He finished seventh with a personal-record distance of 37'4” on his second preliminary attempt.
Will Faulk had an extremely productive day, adding silver medals in the 1A-4A 800- (2:02.46) and 3,200-meter (10:05.50) runs to an already-packed trophy case. St. Bernard's long-distance king weaved his way through traffic to grab the lead early in the third of four laps but was passed on the final stretch.
Two Cullman athletes landed on the podium with impressive top-three results in their respective 5A events. Mark Gomez pulled off the feat in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:10.65, as did Chris Johnson in the shot put with a toss measuring 44'3.5”. Johnson also flew to 13th (18'2.5”) in the long jump earlier in the day.
Four other Bearcats secured top-10 spots throughout the day. Stephen McNeal (2:04.38) and Matthew Huddleston (2:05.70) were 5-6 in the 800-meter run, Nicholas Fillinger edged Bairon Francisco by three-hundredths of a second to snag seventh (10:30.90) in the 3,200-meter run and Hillary Crider cruised to ninth (13:55.98) in the girls 3,200-meter run.
Results for other Cullman competitors are as follows: Marisa Franklin, 13th in the 800-meter run, 2:43.60; Megan Pendley, 16th in the 800-meter run, 2:48.26; Daniel Johnson, 18th in the shot put, 35'5”; and Michael Bentley, 25th in the long jump, 15'3.5”.
Bearcats' Emma Doss (10.72) and Julia Masters (10.97) both moved on to Saturday's 5A girls 60-meter hurdles final by finishing fourth and eighth, respectively, at the preliminary level.
Cold Springs' Kramer Crider didn't look like much of a freshman, leaving 25 other runners in the dust en route to a 10th-place finish (10:47.62) in the 1A-4A 3,200-meter run. The Eagles' Cassi Still (13:35.96) and Emily Campbell (13:42.54) were 17th and 18th, respectively, from the same distance in the girls division.
St. Bernard's Ayleana Mami started the day in style with 10th (13:06.35) in the girls 1A-4A 3,200-meter run. She later roped in 20th (2:50.63) in the 800-meter run.
Mami's teammate, Logan Ayers, had her best finish in the 800-meter run, winning her section with a time of 2:37.92 before winding up in 12th once all three sections were completed. Ayers tacked on 15th (13:34.34) in the 3,200-meter run.
Steven Mami was 33rd (13:11.57) and 34th (2:35.95) for the Saints in the 3,200- and 800-meter runs.
Nathan Handley also represented Vinemont at the state championship meet, running to 17th (11:25.26) from the 3,200-meter distance in the 1A-4A boys division.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.