PEARL – For the first time since 2018, Hattiesburg faced a challenge entering Thursday’s 5A State Track championships.
After winning their last two state championships with mostly ease, the Tigers went toe-to-toe with Brookhaven, who beat Hattiesburg in South State by six points.
Entering the day’s final event, the 4X400 relay, Hattiesburg trailed Brookhaven by three points, which meant the Tigers had to finish in fourth place or better.
Luckily, the heavily-favored Tigers did what they were supposed to do and torched the field with a 3:31.65. The late win helped Hattiesburg return the favor on Brookhaven as the Tigers won by six points to seal their third straight state championship as well as the clean sweep of both the boys’ and girls’ state titles.
“They have got a taste of success and enjoy success,” said Hattiesburg track Coach Charles Green on both team’s winning state championships. “They all rally and cheer for each other. They all want to be successful. It’s my first time to get both titles at the same time.”
Hattiesburg and Brookhaven relied on the bulk of their points to come from different events. Hattiesburg’s points primarily came from its sprinters and jumpers, while the Panthers looked to its distance runners.
One of the Tigers’ top sources of production was senior Camrun Norman, who won the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Helping add points in each event was De’Vaunce Norman, as he finished in fourth in the triple jump, sixth in the long jump and sixth in the pole vault.
Norman, who was the favorite in each event, found himself challenged in the high jump, which came down to a sudden death jump against Cleveland Central’s Josh Khirkam. After the rest of the field was eliminated, the bar was raised to seven feet, but both jumpers narrowly missed. The bar was again lowered to 6 feet, 11 inches, but again both jumpers barely failed to clear the height. Finally, at 6 feet, 10 inches, Norman jumped to victory. However, as Norman came away with the win, he didn’t show a sign of celebration because at the same time, he was still competing in the long jump.
“I’m used to that,” said Norman, who is a West Alabama track signee. “I’ve been doing this since I was in the 10th grade. I’ve really adapted to it. I knew I had to stay locked in because I had to do the long jump right after.
“The main thing for me was not to overthink it. When I overthink, I tend to get angry, and so the other number one thing was to keep calm.”
Norman leaped to victory with a little more ease as he jumped 23 feet, which was two more feet than second place. In the triple jump, Norman came out on top with a jump of 46 feet, two inches.
“Cam had another Cam day,” Green said. “He almost goes seven feet in the high jump. He has been nipping on the door for seven. He started the day off with a huge PR (personal record) in the triple jump by almost two feet. He wasn’t far off his PR in the long jump. The kid has had a remarkable three-year run. He is one of those kids that you hate to see leave, but they all have to leave at some point.”
Hattiesburg’s 4X800 relay team picked up a third-place finish. However, Brookhaven finished in first and built on its lead with key scoring in the 1600-meter run, 3200-meter run, and 800-meter run, and a win in the discus.
“We started out in the field, and we knew we were strong in the jumps,” Green said. “Cam had a great day today and won all three of his jumps. We had some mishaps with our second jumpers. It was an up and down day between us and Brookhaven. All the way until we got into 800. We were up by one point heading into the 800, and I knew that we would be down afterward. I knew that all week; I never told the kids, but I told the coaches that if we were within 12 points heading into the 200 that we had a strong shot of winning. I knew we had the No. 1 4x400 relay team in our class.”
Chanse Ducksworth also added two fourth-place finishes in the 100m and 200m dashes. Mitchell White finished in fourth place in the 800m run with a time of 2:04. The Tigers finished in third place in the 4X100m relay and fifth in the 4X100m relay.
The Tigers made up ground in the hurdles. Sophomore Javarius Molden was unexpectedly edged out in the 110m hurdles as he finished in second place by .7 seconds. However, Molden came up with a win in the 300m hurdles with a time of 40.71.
Molden and White’s late production in the 800 helped narrow Brookhaven’s lead and ultimately set up Hattiesburg’s win in the 4X400 relay.
“It’s overwhelming, but it’s a great feeling though, and I’ll take it any day,” Green said. “Hopefully, we’ll able to regroup and come back next year to try and do it all over again. It’s great for the school, and it’s great for the community.”