AUBURN – UMS Wright High School’s Blakeslee Elliott won her fourth straight diving title Friday to highlight the first day of the 54th AHSAA State Swimming & Diving Championships at Auburn University’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center.
The state meet concludes Saturday afternoon with finals in all swim events. The NFHS Network is live-streaming all finals over its subscriber-based NFHS Network platform.
Elliott won her first state crown in the Class 1A-5A division 1-meter event as a seventh-grader at the Mobile school. Her championship on Friday came thanks to her 313.35 final score. UMS swept the top four of five divers in the meet.
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa’s M’Kay Gidley won the girls’ 6A-7A diving championship with 322 points. Gidley, a senior, was fourth last year in the state finals.
Huntsville High School senior Hampton Jarres (362.85) and St. Michael Catholic of Fairhope junior Ben Adamski (295.15) won the boys’ diving titles. Jarres was third a year ago in the large-school division while Adamski finished second in 1A-5A in 2018.
UMS-Wright freshman Tori Waters finished second in the small-school girls’ event with 280.05 points, teammate Mae Elliott – a seventh-grader – was third at 248.10 and eighth-grader Ann Chason Brock was fourth with 242.75. Whitesburg Christian Academy’s Michaela Houser was fifth at 214.55.
In the 6A-7A girls’ competition, sophomore Anna Cate Goodson of the Randolph School finished second with 282.75 points. Auburn junior Maggie Rendleman (275.45) was third, followed by Daphne eighth-grader Rose Gilder (272.95) and James Clemens sophomore Ashley Ahrens (271.15).
Avery Balch, a junior from Hartselle, was second in the 6A-7A boys’ event with 360.80 finish. Senior Parker Inman of Davidson (354.95) was third, followed by freshman Daniel Coffman of Huntsville (343.45) and Alec Benzek, a junior from James Clemens (311.65).
In 1A-5A, Kaje Jordan, freshman from Scottsboro High, finished second with a 259.70 score. Whitesburg Christian Academy senior Joey Houser (255.20) was third, followed by Elmore County freshman Coleman Rogers (253.85) and UMS-Wright eighth-grader Harrigan Weston (253.35).
Saturday’s swimming finals begin with warm-ups at 1 p.m. and competition at 2 p.m. Admission is $10.
By MIKE PERRIN
For the AHSAA
MONTGOMERY -- The 59th AHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships get underway Friday at Auburn University’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center with streaks on the line in both the girls’ and boys’ competitions.
The girls from Westminster Christian Academy of Huntsville and boys from Huntsville High will be looking to capture their fourth straight team titles in the Class 6A/7A division while St. Paul’s Episcopal School’s boys will be on the hunt to ascend the winners’ stand for the fifth time in six years after Boaz and T.R. Miller shared the 1A/5A title in 2018. The 2018 1A/5A girls’ champion was UMS-Wright.
Westminster’s 2018 crown came in the girls’ team’s first year in the large-school division. Auburn High’s girls won the championship 2013-17.
“The state meet is a special experience,” Westminster Coach Roger Von Jouanne said, “as the swimmers from around the state produce times you can hardly believe. Our Westminster guys and girls have always stepped up at state. They’ve worked hard all season long with this meet in mind.”
Von Jouanne, in his ninth year at Westminster, was a 12-time All-American swimmer at Southern Illinois University who set an American record in the 200 butterfly and won the U.S. Nationals in the 200 Individual Medley while in college. He finished in fourth in the Olympic Trials in 1984. He also broke the U.S. Masters’ record in the 200 IM for the 40-45 age group after an almost two-decade absence from the competitive pool.
“I really never anticipated a Westminster swim team competing on the level that our girls have achieved,” he said. “In the early years, we were focused on ‘mining the treasure’ that God had placed into Westminster’s hallways. We enjoyed the pursuit each year of trying to be a top-ranked 3A school in the state. Every year, I did a little bit of research among the other 3A schools to see where we stood, and we always had either the best guys’ or girls’ team in Alabama – which we celebrated in our little circle.
“In 2014, when the AHSAA divided the sectional and state competition into large and small schools, we were in legitimate contention with our boys’ team and finished second at state. Then our top boys graduated, but there began a groundswell of young girls who began to qualify for state in 2015. The next year, our girls fired each other up all season long and in 2016, glory to God, we were able to win the small-school title over the established powerhouse St. Paul’s team. The following year, our girls were hard-pressed against a loaded St. John Paul II team and had an amazing state meet to repeat as small school champions.”
Westminster moved up to the 6A/7A division in 2018 and didn’t miss a beat on the way to their third straight title.
Two Westminster girls – Rebekah Hamilton and Eboni McCarty – have verbally committed to swim for Auburn University and Georgia, respectively. “They are top-notch swimmers,” Von Jouanne said, “not to mention wonderful young ladies who will be a blessing in terms of their character and their worth ethic. If you’ve ever met them, you know they are the nicest people, but in the water, they are absolute sea-monsters!”
Von Jouanne, whose full-time job is as a Boeing engineer, said the competition in the AHSAA has improved throughout this tenure at the Huntsville private school. “I think Alabama high school swimming has moved into a good place and is continuing to move in the right direction. My three kids swam for Bob Jones High School over a span of 13 consecutive years, and in the early years of that span there were no state meet qualifying times.
“After the first wave of qualifying times, around 2005, the caliber of the state meet began to increase, and the caliber increased the qualifying times. As interest and participation increased, the next stage was warranted to divide into small school and large school divisions. That added another level of excitement and it continued to enhance participation.”
“High school swimming should be the pinnacle of our sport at this stage of an athlete’s life and the AHSAA has made the necessary changes to bring that experience to our athletes.”
AHSAA 59th State Swimming & Diving Championships
James E. Martin Aquatics Center, Auburn University
Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-7
Friday, Dec. 6 – Swim prelims – 5 p.m. (warm up 3:30-4:45 p.m.)
Friday, Dec. 6 – Diving – 9 a.m. (warm up 8 a.m.)
Saturday, Dec. 7 – Swim finals – 2 p.m. (warm up 12:45-1:45 p.m.)
Admission: $10 per day.
Live-Streaming: NFHS Network will live-stream the championships over its subscriber-based on-line network. Go to www.nfhsnetwork.com for more details on becoming a subscriber.
Pinson Valley 26, Saraland 17
AUBURN – Pinson Valley High School held off Saraland in the second half to beat the Spartans 27-16 and claim its second consecutive Super 7 Class 6A state football championship Friday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The 6A finals closed out the 2018 Super 7. Attendance for all the finals 51,651 with 22,435 on hand for the 7A finals on Wednesday night, 16,012 in attendance on Thursday and 13,204 on hand for Friday’s three games. The total was up more than 15,000 from 2017.
Senior quarterback Bo Nix completed 25-of-35 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 66 yards and another TD to earned MVP honors for his dad Coach Patrick Nix’s Indians (13-10 for the second straight year.
It was his keeper for two yards on fourth down at the Saraland 31-yard line with just under a minute remaining that sealed the hard-fought victory over Coach Jeff Kelly’s Spartans (13-2).
Nix teamed up with receiver Geordian Pollard for the longest touchdown pass in Super 7 Class 5A championship-game history on an 83-yard connection early in the second quarter to give Pinson a 12-3 lead at halftime. The pass was also the second longest in Super 7 history over all. The record, an 85-yard TD connection, was set earlier in the week by Mars Hill Bible in its 1A win over Linden. That pass eclipsed the Super 7 record set, ironically, by future NFL receiver Chad Jackson on a Hoover flanker pass in a 48-21 loss to Daphne in the 2001 Super 7 Class 6A finals.
Saraland took the early lead with a 32-yard field goal by Cole Robitzch late in the first quarter. The Indians drove 64 yards on six plays on the ensuing drive to take a 6-3 lead on Nix’s 2-yard run with 40 seconds left in the opening period. Spartans defensive back Shawn Byrd blocked both extra-point kicks following Pinson’s two first-half touchdowns. He also had two interceptions on defense, forced a fumble and recorded a game-high 13 tackles to keep Saraland in striking distance.
His second pick was the catalyst that led to the Spartans’ first touchdown, a 3-yard run by Rayshawn McAlpine which came at 2:40 in the third quarter and cut the Indians’ lead to 12-10.
Pinson answered quickly, however, driving 62 yards on 10 plays in the next three minutes to take a 19-10 lead on Nix’s 2-yard TD pass to Demarion Holloman with 11:21 to play. Saraland stormed right back scoring on quarterback Brett Nezat’s 11-yard TD pass to Jay Williams to pull within two 19-17 with just under nine minutes to play.
Is was Pinson’s defense that came up with the biggest play of the final period, however, when Kendall Thornton intercepted a Saraland pass and sped 32 yards into the end zone for the final score of the game with 5:03 to play.
Pinson Valley had 21 first downs, 94 yards rushing and 306 passing for 400 total yards. Saraland had 18 first downs, 221 yards rushing, 106 passing and 327 total yards. Nix, who became the state’s all-time career total offense leader in the Indians’ semifinal win over Clay-Chalkville, finished the season 267-of-445 passing on the year for 3,795 yards and 49 touchdowns with just eight interception. He finished his career with 161 touchdowns accounted for with 126 passing touchdowns and 35 rushing touchdowns to set a new AHSAA career state record.
McAlpine led Saraland with 158 yards rushing on 28 carries and Karie White had 65 on five runs. Nezat was 8-of-21 passing for 106 yards with Jay Williams hauling in four receptions.
Dorian Henderson and Antone Williams each had 11 tackles to pace the Indians defense.
2018 Super 7 State Championship Results
Mars Hill Bible 53, Linden 26
Fyffe 21, Luverne 19
Flomaton 23, Piedmont 12
UMS-Wright 52, Deshler 0
Central-Clay County 43, Vigor 42
Pinson Valley 26, Saraland 17
Central-Phenix City 52, Thompson 7
UMS-Wright 52, Deshler 0
AUBURN – Junior wide receiver Keyshawn Woodyard set a Super 7 Class 4A state championship game record with four touchdown receptions to lead UMS-Wright (14-0) to a 52-0 victory over Deshler (9-6) Friday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the first of three games for the final day of the 2018 state championships.
He had TD receptions of 7, 7, 15 and 17 yards – from three different passers and finished the game with nine receptions for 128 yards to earn Class 4A game MVP.
Tailback Symon Smith, who rushed for 33 yards on seven carries, tossed a halfback pass to Woodyard for the first TD. Quarterback Skipper Snypes threw the second two TDs in the first half and left-handed wide receiver Richard Brinson fired a 17-yard strike in the third quarter for the other TD.
William Percy booted a 36-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to up the Bulldogs’ lead to 24-0 at the half. Joe Barber scored on a 1-yard run, Trey Singleton bulled in from the 2 for another TD and Edwin White closed out the scoring with 5-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
The championship was the second in a row and eighth overall for UMS-Wright and the seventh directed by head coach Terry Curtis, who became the AHSAA’s newest 300-game winner in the second round of the state playoffs earlier this season..
UMS-Wright totaled 22 first downs, 175 yards rushing and 206 passing for 381 yards. The Bulldogs had no turnovers. Deshler, coached by Bo Culver, totaled 111 yards with 32 passing and 79 rushing. The Tigers had four turnovers.
Snypes was 13-of-17 passing for the Bulldogs for 182 yards. White, who rushed for 121 yards on 21 carries, caught two passes for 30 yards. He also had 64 yards on punt returns with a long of 44 yards and opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return to set up his team’s first TD.
Xavier Trotter gained 51 yards on nine attempts to lead Deshler. Channing Marmann was 7-of-14 passing got 32 yards with Samuel Almon leading the Tigers with four receptions.
Linebacker Will Breland had 10 tackles for a Bulldogs defense that registered its seventh shutout of the season with the win. UMS-Wright allowed only 58 points (4.4 ppg) in 14 games – best in the AHSAA in 2018. White made two interceptions on defense, Brinson had one and Conrad Inge had the fourth one for the Bulldogs.
Jacob Statom led Deshler’s defense with 12 tackles. Teammates Harley Wallace and Arley Wallace added seven tackles each. Harley also had three tackles for losses.
Luverne (13-1) and Fyffe (14-0) kicked off at 3 p.m., Friday in the 2A finals and Pinson Valley (12-1) is scheduled to face Saraland (13-1) in the Class 6A finals at 7 p.m., to close out the 2018 Super 7 Championships.
All games are being televised by the Raycom Sports Network with the Raycom feed live-streamed over the NFHS Network. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast the games live over their network of radio and internet affiliates across the state.
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