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Tigers send 10 to state track meet

Demopolis High track coach Rudy Griffin described the scene following Saturday’s sectional meet as an emotional one. After the Tiger track team finished its competition at St. Paul’s High School, 10 DHS student-athletes boarded the team bus with the knowledge they had qualified for the state track meet in Gulf Shores this weekend.

“It hit a lot of kids,” Griffin said of the runners’ responses to obtaining a goal they set at the season’s onset.

“This team works harder than any other team I’ve had in years,” assistant coach Rodney Rowser said of the group.

That effort bore fruit Saturday as 10 runners qualified for state. Representing Demopolis at the state level will be the girls 4-by-400-meter relay team of Zhana James, Mayghan Page, Jenny Campbell and Ashya Samuels. That quartet took third at sectionals, turning in a time of 4:24 that was a full 12 seconds faster than its previous best outing of the season.

“It was amazing,” Griffin said of the girls’ run. “The effort they put out at sectionals was surprising to me. For them to cut 12 seconds off their time on a stage like the sectionals is really commendable.”

Rowser said he felt the level of competition the squad faced throughout the season helped keep the sprinters’ anxiety at bay.

“They have that big-time meet experience from all the big meets they’ve been to this year,” Rowser said. “So (being at sectionals) really didn’t faze them.”

Also qualifying for state was the boys 4-by-400 team of Larry Cobb, Brian Taylor, Kevin Norman and Greg Irvin. That group took second in sectionals with a time of 3:32.

The boys 4-by-100 team of Irvin, Taylor, Dalvin Harris and Martaze Jackson finished with a time of 44.5 seconds, good enough to take second at sectionals and qualify for the state championships.

In addition to qualifying for both boys relay teams, Irvin also made the grade in a pair of individual events. The senior, who signed a football scholarship to UAB in February, placed fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.5 seconds and third in the 400-meter dash with a time of 51.5 seconds. Both performances were good enough to give him one more shot at competing in the events.

“That’s big. That’s going to open up for more kids to come out next year to see what we’re accomplishing,” Rowser said of the impact placing 10 runners in five state-level events will have on the program. “With what we’re doing this year with qualifying for state, I’m expecting a large number (of athletes to participate in the program) next year.”

“I feel that we’re heading in the right direction as far as building a track program here in Demopolis,” Griffin said. “I’m just excited about everybody’s progression.”

The team’s final competition of the 2009 season will start Friday at Gulf Shores High School. Athletes will also take part in opening ceremonies that morning.

“I don’t want the season to end because we’re really having a good time and everybody is just starting to gel as a team,” Griffin said.