Story submitted by Anthony Bright, Alpena High School Principal
Alpena, small in numbers, Big in success
Nestled between Harrison and Berryville is a small quiet town. Sitting up on a hill in that town hidden away is the small class 1A school of Alpena. As you enter the campus you will see your normal buildings hosting classrooms, offices, greenhouse, and gymnasium. What you do not see if a track facility. That however did not stop a group of girls from claiming the first ever Girls State Track and Field Championship, April 30 in Mineral Springs, AR.
Alpena has done well in track, having athletes who have individual state titles, but never a team title, for not having practice facilities. How do these athletes prepare? Rainy days, they would stay inside the gym working on starting blocks, hand-offs for relays, lifting or conditioning. Other days they would have to travel, some days to the local park, others to area schools. “We were very lucky and thankful schools such as Berryville, Green Forest, and Harrison were all willing to let us come and practice on their facilities”, said Coach Phillip Roberts. “It stinks because we have to drive to another school to practice our events. Even then, we are limited on what we can do because other school teams were always practicing too and we had to wait,” said members of the senior girls and boys teams. However all four teams (jr and sr high, girls and boys) would load on a bus and go practice. That practice paid off, as members of all teams showed improvement, and eventually lead to the senior girls district and state title, as well as 4 boys making it to state. “Every member that participated at state placed in their events, girls and boys” commented assistant Coach Nancy Coffelt.
A group of 9 girls and 4 boys made the 5 hour trip and came back with individual state champions, state runner ups, and no lower than a seventh place finish in any event.
Senior Alexus Anthony won the high jump and placed 5th in the 300 hurdles.
Junior Cheyenne Wilcox was state runner up in discus, and placed 3rd in shot put.
Sophomore Alex Hill won the long jump, 100 meter dash, 110 hurdles, 400 meter dash and placed 3rd in the 200 meter dash.
Sophomore Whitney Coffelt placed 3rd in triple jump, tied for 4th in pole vault
Sophomore Addy Fultz placed 4th in discus
The 4×100 relay team was state runner, consisted of Junior Kayleigh Armer, Sophomore Desiree Detrich, Sophomore Whitney Coffelt, and senior Alexus Anthony.
The 4×400 relay team placed 3rd consisting of Kayleigh Armer, Freshman Anniston Armer, Senior Maddy Milburn, and Alexus Anthony.
Competing also were four boys: Junior Brock Bolding who was state runner up in the 800 meter, and Junior Peyton Johnson who placed 5th in the 800 meter run. “ I am super proud of these boys, after our very first meet we talked about strategy and training for this day, and they put in hard work and training and it paid off” said Coffelt. Joining Bolding and Johnson in the 4X400 relay and placing 7th; were freshmen Bryce Martin and Kolbe Hicks. The four boys competed very well and took 5 seconds running their best time.
Six of these athletes made the All State Track team based on their performances:
Alexus Anthony, Kayleigh Armer, Whitney Coffelt, Desiree Detrich, Alex Hill, and Cheyenne Wilcox for the girls. Brock Bolding was all state for the boys. Alexus Anthony is the lone senior in this group.
The girls team qualified members in every field event and took an early point lead with several PR’s being set and placing in each event. Coach Roberts said “We talked to them about just going out and performing how they had all season long and we would be fine. They did just that”. The girls scored 103.5 points to claim the title with the runner up team scoring 66. “It’s honestly a once in a lifetime experience. I’m thankful for all my coaches pushing me to be a better athlete. Most of all I am thank my parents. A championship is not just handed to you it’s hard work and grind,” commented junior Kayleigh Armer. Senior Maddy Milburn who had not ran track since jr high, was excited to be part of a state championship team and helping the 4×400 relay team to a top 3 finish. The team will return several members next season, which should give the Lady Leopards a good foundation of experience competing at the highest level. They will also have some young girls to add to the team to make another run at the title in 2020. 4 x 100 returning team members, Jr. Kayleigh Armer, Sophomores; Whitney Coffelt, and Desiree Detrich said they want to add a 4×100 state event title along with repeating as team champions. “You can’t explain how it feels, it was one of the best feelings ever, it was a moment I’ll never forget. I want to come back next year and be better than I was this year and do it again,” said sophomore Whitney Coffelt.
This is a great set of athletes, as these girls are also part of a group that made the final four in volleyball, and they were conference, district and regional champions, as well as final four in basketball. Senior Maddy Milburn said “It felt exciting and surreal. After getting the trophy and realizing we got something we finally wanted it almost felt empty, like I did not know what I wanted to do next. For the past couple years, our basketball, volleyball and track teams all had amazing chances to not only make it far in state, but a possible championship. We pushed ourselves beyond our limits within each other, because we knew our expectations. This track season was the last good chance the seniors had left to reach our goal and we made it.”, she went on to say she was going to miss not only the great challenges that she faced trying to keep up with they younger athletes, but the girls in general. Not only were we a team, we were family, we stuck together, pushed each other and lifted each other up. If anyone could ever have something remotely close to that, then every moment is worth sharing.
If it is track season and you see an Alpena bus after school hours, don’t be surprised to find it full of athletes traveling to prepare for another run at a state title. As they say in Alpena, Leopard Loud Leopard Proud and that they are of this small determined set of athletes.
Learn more about Alpena here.