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Tiger track headed for state meet

The Demopolis track team turned in one of its best sectional performances in program history this past weekend, walking out of Mobile’s McGill-Toolen High School with 11 players qualified for the state meet.

“That’s big. That’s real big,” DHS track coach Rudy Griffin said. “We’re getting to where we want this thing to be.”

This year’s squad saw its girls qualify in two relay events and six individual events, a marked improvement over the 2009 team that placed only its 4-by-400-meter relay team in the state meet.

“Most of them are ninth and tenth graders, first-year runners,” coach Rodney Rowser said of the girls. “They will be back. That will help bring other girls out.”

Shenique Collier, Aysha Samuels, Damekeia Marshall and Catrina Benison qualified for the state meet by a wide margin, winning the Class 5A, Region 1 championship in the 4-by-400-meter relay with a time of 4:16. That outpaced the second place squad by 10 seconds.

The win came in the first competition event of the year for Samuels, a senior who has battled injury all season long.

“It’s nice to have everyone back and healthy,” Rowser said. “Last year Aysha was on that team that qualified for state in the (4-by-400). It is nice to have her in that group with the young girls.”

Marshall and Benison will run in a second relay event at state when they join Shadijah Moore and Janiya Davis in the 4-by-100-meter relay event. That quartet also toted the Class 5A, Region 1 championship with a time of 50.3 seconds.

Benison will also run in the 200-meter and 100-meter dashes after taking second in both events over the weekend. Samuels took second in the 400-meter and will sprint in the event again at state. Moore took fourth in the 100 while Marshall took fourth in the 200. Those finishes are good enough to land them in the state events. Davis took sixth in the 200, qualifying for the run again at state.

On the boys side, three relay teams qualified for state competition. Jeremy Wallace, Terrance Charleston, Dalvin Harris and Martaze Jackson won the Region 1 championship in the 4-by-100-meter relay with a time of 44.06 seconds.

Charleston and Harris teamed with Larry Cobb and Rodney Harper to post a time of 3:34 in the 4-by-400-meter relay, taking second overall in sectionals and qualifying for state.

Wallace, Harper, Cobb and Jamarcus Alvis ran the 4-by-800-meter sprint for the first time this season, posting a time of nine minutes flat, a mark that landed them in third place at in the state sprint.

Individual qualifiers included Harper, who took fourth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 44.6. Charleston took second in the 400 meters with a time of 50.7, beating Greg Irvin’s team record set in 2009. Harris took fourth in the 100 and 200 meters, qualifying for state in both.

“We noticed a difference from the jump (this year) by having a track,” Griffin said of the difference in the team since last season. “That’s all you heard people talking about (at sectionals) was Demopolis. I’m really, really pleased and excited as a coach to know that they went up there and dominated the way they did.”

The runners will travel to Gulf Shores High School Thursday evening before beginning preliminaries at 9 a.m. Friday. That state meet will run Friday and Saturday.