"Boston Strong" was the motto of Huntsville runners at the 2014 marathon. (Source: Associated Press)
The AHSAA's most prolific boys' pole vaulter in state history and two girls' distance runners took center stage Thursday as the AHSAA's 91st annual State Outdoor Track and Field Championships got underway at Gulf Shores for Classes 4A, 5A, 6A and 7A.
The Class 1A, 2A, 3A State Championships will debut at Cullman High School's Oliver Woodard Stadium Friday morning. Both meets are being live-streamed by the NFHS TV Network. Links to the broadcasts can be found at www.ahsaa.com. McGill-Toolen Catholic senior Sean Collins became the first AHSAA competitor to clear 17 feet to win the Class 7A pole vault state title Thursday night at Gulf Shores. Collins' best leap of the outdoor season was 16-08, almost four inches better than his record-setting indoor height (16-04 ¾) last February in the AHSAA indoor state championships. He attempted 17-05 Thursday night three times but did not clear. Never-the-less, he came away as with the 7A and overall state record and a place in the AHSAA track record books that will be talked about for years to come. Eighth grader Amaris Tyynisma of Montgomery Catholic beat her season best time of 5:05.06 by four seconds to set a new Class 4A state girls' record in the 1,600 meters at Gulf Shores Thursday – clocking 5:01.38 to get the win. She already holds state indoor records in the 3,200 and 1,600 meters and set an all-time AHSAA girls' cross country record last fall at the AHSAA cross country state championships with a 17:03 in the 3.1-mile race. She will be running the 800 meters Friday and the 3,200 meters Saturday at Gulf Shores Complex. In Class 7A, where all championship times are state records in the AHSAA's newest classification, Huntsville's Abbey Weitenbeck ran 4:59.76 to win the first-ever 7A title in the 1,600 meters. Her time was 11 seconds off the pace of the state overall record (4:48.23) set in 2013 by Carmen Carlos of McGill-Toolen. Carlos now competes in the SEC at Vanderbilt. After three finals events, UMS-Wright leads Class 4A boys and girls with 30 and 31.50 points, respectively. In Class 5A, St. Paul's leads the girls with 27 points and the boys with 23 points. The 5A girls had just two events posted. Homewood tops the 6A point totals with 30 in the boys' competition and 29 in the girls' events. McGill-Toolen Catholic leads the 7A girls with 31 points and Auburn tops the boys with 20 points. The pole vault, which finished late, had not been posted. Isabel Valenzuela of St. Paul's Episcopsal won the 1,600 in Class 5A and Mary Grace Strozier of Pelham won in in Class 6A. On the boys' side, two sprinters turned in near-record times in the 100-meter dash prelims. Gary Johnson of Douglas clocked his fastest time of the year (10.79 seconds) to pace all 5A qualifiers. Nathanaiel Huggins of Opelika also had his best time of the season with a 10.57 qualifying time in 6A, and Joshua Burks of James Clemens posted a 10.65 to lead Class 7A qualifiers. Robert Hope of UMS-Wright (4A), Sheldon Britton of Alabama Christian (5A), Andy Bryant of Homewood (6A) and Paul Barlow of Auburn (7A) each posted wins in boys' 1,600-meter action. Several field events were completed Thursday. Among the winners were: Margaret Ollinger, McGill-Toolen: The Class 6A record holder cleared 12 feet, 10 inches to establish Class 7A's initial state record in the pole vault Thursday. She holds the 6A record with a 12-04 clearance last year and set the state 7A indoor record clearing 12-04¼ in February at the CrossPlex. Gracie Hunt, UMS-Wright: Posted Class 4A wins in the triple jump (35 feet, 2 ½ inches) and high junp (5-02) to help the Lady Bulldogs take the first-day lead. Christian Bell, Hoover: Won the boys' 7A shot put with a 5-10 winning toss. DeShaun Williams, St. Clair County: His 21-08 distance won the Class 5A boys' long jump championship. Results can be found at www.ahsaa.com at the live stats link.