By Rubin E. Grant
The Hoover boys relay teams went on a search and destroy mission in the 49th AHSAA State Indoor Track & Field Championships last weekend at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
“They not only wanted to win, but break records,” said Hoover coach Devon Hind.
Mission accomplished as the Bucs shattered records in the 4×400 and 4×200 while winning their third consecutive Class 7A championship.
The Bucs’ 4×400 relay team closed the meet Saturday with a 3:20.59 time to set the AHSAA all-time record in that event. Auburn (3:22.05) set the previous state-meet best in 2015.
“It was amazing because the previous week in the Last Chance meet, we came close to both records,” said junior Jonathan Martin, who ran with teammates Seth Shelby, Zach Elam and Dorian Austin in the 4×400.
“There’s a record wall at Hoover and I pointed to both of those records before state,” Martin continued. “I told them those are coming down at state. My teammates said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’”
Hoover’s 4×400 victory was preceded by a record-shattering showing Friday in the 4×200. Martin, Elam, Shelby and J’Marri McCall ran 1:28.02, establishing school, meet and CrossPlex records.
“Last year our relay teams were really fast and then they graduated,” Martin said. “We didn’t know if we were nearly as fast. To break the record by as much as we … , we were all kind of shocked.”
Both of the Bucs’ relay teams currently rank third among United States high schools.
Hind was ecstatic about the performance.
“They ran really well,” he said. “They set some goals and they reached them.
“Now, I’ve got to keep them all healthy for outdoor.”
It will be awhile before Martin gets ready for the outdoor season. He’s training for a national indoor meet that is scheduled for March in New York.
“They have some standards you have to meet with your times and I met those standards in the 400-meter dash, so I’ll be competing in that,” Martin said.
Martin was third in the 400 with a time of 49.84 in the state meet, and Austin finished fourth in 50.06.
“I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to and I was a little upset,” Martin said. “But I’m still glad I was able to contribute to my team winning.”
Hoover accumulated 105 points with strong efforts from start to finish to win their fifth title in seven seasons. Oak Mountain was a distance second with 51 points. Vestavia Hills and Hewitt-Trussville tied for third with 49 points each.
“They did what I thought they could,” Hind said. “It was a good weekend. Not too much went wrong.”
The 4×800-meter relay team finished third.
Shelby finished third in the 60-meter dash in 7.02 and Martin was sixth with 7:15. Kennon Johnson placed second in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.51 despite tweaking his hamstring.
Senior Kyle Smith led Hoover in the jumps, taking second in the high jump (6-04), second in the triple jump (46-1.25) and sixth in the long jump (21-04.75).
Teammate John Watkins won the triple jump with a leap of 47-03.50 on his final attempt. His personal-best jump enabled him to win his first individual title. McCall placed second in the long jump at 22-09.75.
The Hoover girls finished fourth in the Class 7A team standings with 51 points. Mountain Brook out-pointed runner-up Baker 71 to 60.5 to win the Spartans’ first state crown since 2013.
“I was actually happy to get a top-five finish,” Hind said. “It was easy to figure out we didn’t have a chance to win. We were lacking sprinters and jumpers like we have in the past.”
Hoover won the 4×800 relay and took second in the 4×400 relay. Rosalind Staie placed third in the shot put with a put of 37-10.