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Fri-Sat, April 3-4, 2009 - OPEN DIVISION @ UMS-Wright Prep - INVITATIONAL DIVISION @ St. Paul's Episcopal
DyeStat on-site for 10th consecutive year with SteveU, Arthur Mack, and photos by Walter Pinion

Friday: Open division athletes rise to the challenge


MOBILE, AL, Friday, April 3—Athletes competing in the open division of the Mobile Challenge of Champions, held at UMS-Wright’s Erwin S. Cooper Stadium knew it was a matter of putting fourth their best effort and having excellent performances.

In many instances, those performances were rewarded by an opportunity to run against some of the nation’s best in the Elite Division.

One notable performance was turned in by Blount of Prichard, Alabama’s girls’ 4 X 100 meter relay. The Lady Leopard quartet of Charletta Steele, India King, Chakristie Andrews, and freshman Sierra Jones clocked an impressive time and seasonal best of 48.64 seconds.

As a result, Blount punched its ticket to Saturday’s Elite Division at St. Paul’s. Despite the impressive time, Lady Leopard coach Allen Merryman said there was still room for improvement.

“We’re still trying to work on exchanges,” he said. “But hopefully tomorrow we can get another personal best.”

Steele also made it to the Elite Division in the triple jump, winning the Open Division in that event with a jump of 35 feet, 6 inches.

Another 4 X 100-meter group that got into the Elite Division was Grayson High of Grayson, Georgia. The quartet of Canen Marshall, Marcellus Fenner, Justin Brown, and Frank Bebbs, clocked a 42.38 in the boys’ race. Surprisingly, that was not the normal quartet.

“This was a totally different group from the group that ran in the county meet,” said Running Rams coach Jason Abner. We’re getting ready for our district meet, and we’re still trying to mix and match, but this group looks pretty good right now.”

Grayson’s 4 X 400 meter relay also qualified for the Elite Division, running 3:26.70.

Another big surprise came in the boys’ 800, where there was one spot open for the Elite race. Among those competing for that spot was UMS-Wright’s Ritchie Huettemann, whose teammates Robert Willett and Kelly Cutrell were already in the Elite lineup.
The pressure was surely on, but Huettemann went through the first 400 in 57 seconds and came through with a personal best 1:57.47 to win the race handily and get the one remaining spot.

“I felt a little team pressure with Robert and Kelly already in the Elite Division,” Huettemann said. “But I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I felt pretty good the first lap, and I just tried to stay relaxed the whole way.”

Gautier’s Hardie Ezell and Williamson’s Terrance Coleman qualified for the Elite Boys’ shot. Both finished 1-2 in the Open Division, each tossing 50-9. Jarael Nevis of White Station in Memphis won the Open Division 100 in 11.05 and got a spot in the Elite Division race, while his teammate, Kevaughn Griffith, clinched a spot in the Elite Division 110-meter hurdles, winning the Open Division in 14.90. Glenn Sapp of Tallahassee (Fla.) Chiles also made it to the Elite Division, winning the discus (145-5).

Other athletes advancing to the Boys’ Elite Division included Khiary Hill of B.C. Rain in the high jump (6-2); Joshua Sigler of Murphy and Nate Hammond of Baldwin County in the triple jump (46-2 and 44-10 respectively); and Jonathan Barnett of Hoover in the 300 hurdles (40.81).

St. Thomas More’s Danielle Murphy was among the Open Division girls advancing to the Elite Division, winning the open 1,600 in 5:18.88. In the 400, Breona Humphrey of Hoover (Ala.) and Ashliegh Oliver of Norcross, Georgia advanced with times of 1:00.13 and 1:00.28 respectively.

Theodore (Ala.) freshman Breanca Thompson won the 100 in 12.44 and made it to the Elite Division as well. It was a big surprise for the youngster, who ran summer track in Mobile and said it helped her for high school competition.

“Running summer track helped me improve a lot,” she said. “During summer track season, I had the chance to compete against people from all over the country. I was nervous coming into the race, but once I got into it I felt pretty good.”

Thompson, along with Murphy’s Amiracle Watson, also made it to the Elite Division in the 200. Watson won with a 25.46, while Thompson ran 26.10.

Others advancing to the Elite Division included Molly Vaughn of Milton (Fla.) and Danielle Cash of White Station in the 100-meter hurdles (16.49/16.57); Mary Beth Strickland of Huntsville (Ala.) in the 800 (2:23.55); and White Station’s Kyla Walker in the long jump (18-1).