Gators’ Smith takes gold

Published 11:28 am Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PEARL — Tommy McCalpin got the state records. A host of athletes from Vicksburg and Warren Central set personal records. And almost everyone took home a shiny souvenir from the MHSAA state track meet Monday afternoon at Pearl High School.

Vicksburg’s Terrell Smith defended his championship in the boys’ 200 meters, accounting for the lone gold among eight medals won by Warren County athletes in the Class 6A meet. Smith beat Clinton’s Cedric Jiles by .25 seconds, and turned in the fastest time in a fast field. Five of the eight runners had seed times under 22 seconds.

“I felt like I won it at the curve. I saw Jiles coming up behind me, so I picked it up. I almost fell when I came out of the curve. I had a bad step,” said Smith, who also won a bronze medal in the long jump. “I feel like I did my hometown good.”

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The rest of Warren County’s athletes won every color of medal except gold.

Vicksburg’s Jasmine Washington and Warren Central’s Khadijah Qualls took silver and bronze, respectively, in the girls’ 100 meter hurdles.

WC’s Candace Wilson finished second in the long jump, Cretesha Kelly was second in the triple jump, and Taylor Willis placed third in the high jump. The worst finish for the Lady Vikes was by Sherry Clark, who was fourth in the 300 meter hurdles. Their efforts helped Warren Central finish eighth in the team standings despite competing in just five events.

“I thought I was going to come in first, but I didn’t. But I had personal records, so I’m good,” said Kelly, who jumped 35 feet, 21⁄4 inches. Tupelo’s Antoinette Riddle won the triple jump with a leap of 35 feet, 10 inches. “She’s a senior and I’m a 10th-grader, so I’m going to be first next year.”

For Vicksburg’s girls, Washington and sprinter Kieyana Gaskin were the bright spots. Gaskin finished fourth in the 100 meters despite a personal-best time of 11.99 seconds, then came in third in a tight race in the 200 meter dash. Forest Hill’s Pamela Byrd won the 200 meters with a time of 24.60 seconds, followed by Biloxi’s Nachaska Wright in 24.83 and Gaskin in 24.85. The top four runners were separated by .33 seconds.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had to work. As I ran I got up. All of those seniors, and I think I did good to be an eighth-grader and come in third place, to even be standing on the podium,” Gaskin said.

McCalpin, a junior sprinter from Port Gibson, had a day to remember in the Class 4A boys’ meet. He broke his own Class 4A record in the 400 meters, finished second in the 200, fourth in the 100, and was part of the winning 800 meter relay team that also broke the Class 4A record.

McCalpin started the day by powering his relay team to victory. Running the third leg, he took the baton from teammate Adarius Barnes, a few steps behind a runner from Tylertown. McCalpin blasted past his opponent in the turn and handed off to anchorman Johnny Hulbert with a comfortable lead.

Carlton Hamilton led off for the Blue Waves, who completed the relay in 1:27.96. The time was 1.69 seconds better than the mark set last year by South Pike.

Later, McCalpin pulled away from Hulbert in the last 200 meters to win the 400 in 48.60 seconds. That obliterated the Class 4A record he set last year by more than a second and a half.

McCalpin needed to shatter the record to win, too. Four runners in the field — including Hulbert, who was second — broke the old mark of 50.21 seconds.

“I’m feeling good today,” McCalpin said after winning the 400. “Last year was my first year. This year I expected to repeat and break my state record. I did all I could just to beat them.”

In all, Port Gibson won eight medals — two gold, three silver and three bronze. It was a great day for the team, right up until the last 100 meters of the meet. Trailing Tylertown by four points entering the final event, the 1,600 meter relay, the Blue Waves could have earned their second consecutive team championship with a victory. Instead, Tylertown’s TyreOune Holmes zoomed past Barnes on the final straightaway to win the relay and the team championship.

Barnes, apparently seeing the team title slip away as Holmes ran past, slowed up and was passed by a runner from Rosa Fort at the finish line, dropping the Blue Waves to third in the relay. They still finished second in the team standings with 82 points. Tylertown, which could have finished as low as third in the final relay and still earned at least a share of the team title, totaled 86.