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Back-to-back state champs

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Ever since they won the Class 3A state title last season, the T.R. Miller Tigers track team has had a bull's eye on it wherever it has competed.
T.R. Miller will keep that bull's eye on it a while longer and that suits coach Alan Baker just fine.
The Tigers had little difficulty rolling to their second straight state title during competition held at Troy State University Friday and Saturday.
T.R. Miller racked up 106 1/2 points en route to the crown. Montgomery Academy, which finished second to the Tigers at the T.R. Miller Sectional, finished runner-up again with a total of 72.
"The kids really did a great job. We scored in 14 of 18 events and 14 boys contributed to those points. Another key was we were able to double place in six of those events," Baker said.
While several members contributed to the title, sophomore Antonio Gomez stepped up the most with two individual crowns and a state meet record.
Gomez's record came in a photo finish race in the 110 meter high hurdles where he nipped Jamarquis Caldwell of Lincoln by one hundreth of one second. Gomez had a time of 14.60, while Caldwell was clocked at 14.61. That easily beat the old state record of 15.06 set by Travis Havens of UMS-Wright set in 1993.
Ironically Trey Adams of Lauderdale County also broke the old state record time with a mark of 15.01, but had to settle for a third place finish.
"That was a tremendous race. The officials took a long time determining who won before they announced the decision," Baker said. "Antonio's best time before the race was 14.9 so he easily set a personal best. He is the just the kind of athlete who seems to rise to the challenge."
Meanwhile Gomez also rose to the top of the field in the triple jump with a leap of 44-5. That was 16 1/2 inches better than his closest competitor.
"That was Antonio's best ever performance in that event by about a foot. He is just an overall great competitor," Baker said.
That was not the only place where T.R. Miller produced a state champion. Senior Skylar Fountain dominated the long jump competition with a winning leap of 22-0. Gomez had a second place jump in that event of 20-9 1/2.
"That was a key event for us at the meet. We were hoping both might place, but to go one-two was huge. Skylar had been jumping between 19 and 20 feet all season so he really had a huge jump at the right time," Baker said.
While those were the only state titles, T.R. Miller scored in several other events.
On the track, Michael Jones was sixth in the 100 meter dash at 11.39 and fifth in the 200 at 22.88. Trey Paul posted a third place time in the 400 meters at 52.24. Fountain came in fourth in the 100 meter high hurdles at 15.44. In the 300 intermediate hurdles, Gomez was fourth at 43.86, while Fountain came in sixth at 44.62. T.R. Miller's 1600 meter relay team of Rodney Lane, Paul, Javoris Drakeford and Gerald Banton came in fourth at 3:36.05, while its 3200 meter relay quartet of Lane, Chris Byrd, James McCracken and David Mathieu was fifth at 8:58.12.
In field event scoring, Gomez was third in the high jump at 5-10, while Paul was sixth at 5-6. Jason Maddox came in seventh in the pole vault at 9-6. Demetris Preyer came in second in the discus at 127-10 and fourth in the shot put at 43-5. Tye Walker was third in the javelin at 144-4, while Damien Jackson was eighth at 132-8.
"Both the 1600 and 3200 meter relay teams had their best times of the season. A big key there was Rodney Lane. Rodney was injured and could not compete in 400 meter dash at the sectional meet and he was the defending state champion in that event. We put him in both races as an alternate and he helped bring their times down quite a bit," Baker said. "Demetris' second place mark in the discus was also a boost for us. We were hoping for top four, but he did even better than that with a pretty good throw."
Although they did not score any points, Chris Byrd notched a 12th place finish in the 800 meters at 2:13.96, while Michael Hunt was 10th in the 3200 meters at 11:52.57. Byrd failed to clear any heights in the pole vault, while the 400 meter relay team was disqualified. Banton had a time of 45.81 in the 300 intermediate hurdles preliminaries.
"We had a few disappointments. Probably the biggest was the disqualification of the 400 meter relay team for a baton exchange infraction. They had the second fastest time going into the meet and we had hoped for a high place in that event," Baker said.