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LONG BEACH - Dayln Anderson had to be convinced to join West Harrison's track team, but after Saturday's joint Class 5A-6A South State meet at Long Beach's Lumpkin-Magee Stadium, the freshman is glad he listened.
The young Hurricane pulled away late in the Class 5A 400-meter dash to claim the South State title with a time of 51.71 seconds.
"In the beginning I couldn't catch them, but I came around the last curve, caught the first-place (guy) and kept leading," Anderson said, gasping for breath after the event. "This means a lot. At first I didn't want to run track and they forced me to run track. And now I'm a South State Champion."
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Anderson's finish helped put the West Harrison boys in fourth by the time rain chased the event.
Due to inclement weather, the meet had to be halted. It is tentatively set to resume Wednesday with 10 races remaining. The state meet is scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Jackson.
When the joint South State meet was stopped, Natchez' girls and boys were leading both 5A results with 111 and 100 points respectively. Hattiesburg (86.5), West Jones (81) and Long Beach (80) rounded out the 5A girls Top 4. Brookhaven (83), Long Beach (59) and West Harrison (57) rounded out the 5A boys Top 4.
Pearl's girls opened a big gap in the 6A girls standings with 165 points, well ahead of Ocean Springs (85.50), Meridian (82) and Brandon (70.5)
The 6A boys competition is much closer with Brandon (84) holding a narrow edge over Pearl (78), Biloxi (71) and Gulfport (52.5).
Long Beach's girls had high hopes of claiming the 5A South State title on their home field, but the Lady Bearcats got off to a slow start. Although Destiny Pickens (56.57) won the 400-meter dash and Ashling Osness (13:04.16) claimed the 3,200-meter run, LBHS will have some work to do when the meet resumes.
"We hit a few bumps in the road today," LBHS coach Olan Welch said. "You don't expect that kind of thing to happen at home, but it did. You just have to roll with the punches."
One of the surprises of the day was Gulfport's 4x100-meter relay team of Larozzo Shugart, Davonte Osby, Shakim Buckley and Derick Hall. Coach Marcus Polk has tinkered with the lineup a bit throughout the season and with the late addition of Shugart, who also plays football and baseball, the Admirals scored a first place finish Saturday with a time of 43.09 seconds.
"This was one of our weaker events, to be honest," Polk said. "We made some changes and put some different people on the team to try and figure out what we can do better. We still have a long ways to go and we're making simple mistakes, I feel like."
Polk credited Shugart's addition for getting the Admirals over the hump.
"He's the x-factor," Polk said. "He's the one who really has changed our 4x100 and made us 10-times more competitive."
D'Iberville's Chris Hudnall had a good day for the Warriors, claiming the Class 6A 110 hurdles with a time of 14.57. He also placed second in the 300-meter hurdles. In the 110, Hudnall was in the middle of a pack of runners before surging ahead late.
"I just had people on me from the start. I knew when I got to each hurdle I had to speed it up a little bit," he said. "I felt they they were up on me because I saw his (Buckley's) cleats, but I knew at the third-to-last hurdle that I had it because he wasn't there."
High and far
West Harrison's Deniyah Downs was one of the lone double winners from the Coast on Saturday. She claimed the 5A long jump with a distance of 18 feet, 4 ½ inches. She also won the 5A high jump with a height of 5 feet.
"I've been praying about it and practicing almost every day, working my butt off. It really payed off for me in the end," she said. "I think if I continue to practice hard and work hard I think I'll be able to win state."
Downs said the difference came this semester when she really started to focus on her events instead of all of her other extracurricular activities like color guard and basketball.
"I was more determined and here to prove people wrong," she said.
Here's the rest of the 5A Coast winners: Pascagoula's Hannah Emery (100-meter dash 12.29), West Harrison's Talena Jones (800-meter run 2:33.26), West Harrison's Paige Middleton (pole vault 7-06), Pascagoula's Treani Richardson (shot put 32-5.5), Long Beach's Matthew Cropper (pole vault 10-0) and Pascagoula's Adam Pani (discus throw 122-4).
Here's the rest of the 6A Coast winners: Ocean Springs' Emma Hunt (pole vault 9-6), Biloxi's Aneisha Bell (shot put 38-7.75; discus throw 105-1), St. Martin's Kaleb Clark (high jump 6-6) and Biloxi's Deshaun Morgan (triple jump 43-3).