The Bulldogs held the lead through the first day of the Class 3A state track meet, but Trinity had a chance to knock them off on the second and final day.
“We were at 74 points and I knew that Trinity was going to go 1 and 2 in the 800-meter dash and they were probably going to win the 4-by-400 relay at the end,” Piedmont track and field coach Mark Mitchell said.
The Bulldogs needed someone to step up and The Anniston Star boys track and field athlete of the year, Denard Spears, was their man. In the Bulldogs second-to-last event of the day, the long jump, Spears was a long shot.
“Going into the long jump, Denard was either the 20th or 21st ranked — wasn’t even close — but he made the finals, so he had the one point no matter what happened,” Mitchell said. “That kind of put us over the hump.”
Spears’ eighth-place finish earned Piedmont the point that sealed the state championship.
“I think that was probably the best moment of my life,” Spears said. “My coach told me going in that I probably wouldn’t get anything, but I just went in and jumped as far as I could. Once I found out that I placed well enough for the finals, I just did it again.”
But it was also what Spears did earlier in the day that brought the title to Piedmont.
In his first event of the day, the sophomore ran the last leg of the 4-by-100 relay, which involved a comeback to top Deshler and added a measure of athletic revenge. Deshler eliminated top-ranked Piedmont from the Class 3A football playoffs in the fall.
“I didn’t really think I could catch him, but I knew we needed first place to get 10 points,” Spears said. “I just ran as fast as I could to get to the finish line and I guess I just beat him by maybe a head.”
Then he won the 100-meter dash an hour and a half later.
“He was about five yards before the guy in the 4-by-100 and hawked him down and won it. Then turned right around and won the 100-meter dash,” Mitchell said. “That’s 20 points in an hour and a half.”
Both individual state titles came a day after Spears failed to qualify in the 200-meter dash, his best event. Mitchell said Spears “could have pouted or been mad about it, but he wasn’t.”
“I just had to be there for my team and couldn’t let it get me down,” Spears said. “I knew in my other events the team needed me to qualify and I just had to run.”
With two more years of eligibility, Spears will have more chances to add a state championship in the 200-meter dash to his list of titles. He’ll also have a chance to help Piedmont attempt to repeat as state champions.
“We’re losing some good guys, but we have some other guys coming in and working hard,” he said. “I think we can get another blue map.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.