By DANNY P. SMITH
Jalan Catledge seized the opportunity when it came time to help the Starkville Yellowjackets at the Class 6A North State track meet Saturday afternoon.
When he took the baton from Kamau Bostic for the last leg of the 4x400 meter relay, the Jackets stood in third place.
Third place would have been good enough to qualify Starkville for next week's state meet, but Catledge didn't want to have to settle for that.
Catledge made up ground coming around the last turn and down the stretch as the Jackets won the final event of the day at Mississippi State's Spencer Stadium/Maddox Track facility.
"When I first started, I was so nervous because I thought these boys are so much faster than me, but when I was halfway done, I realized I was right behind them and I decided to speed up," Catledge said. "I saw an opening. When we came to the last straight, I saw it and went right past them. It was like God's will to let me bring it back."
The 4x400 meter relay squad has been a work in progress this season, but SHS track coach Chris Barnett settled into a quartet of Catledge, Bostic, Charles Hughes and Jacoby Smith.
Barnett said the unit made up of all underclassmen (two juniors and two sophomores) did a great job, especially Catledge at the end.
"Jalan has begged and begged and begged to be the last leg and said 'I'll give 100 percent and every time' and he does," Barnett said. "He hasn't let us down to this point."
On top of running the third leg of the 4x400, Bostic won the 800-meter run with a time of 1:58 and placed third in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:43.04.
Bostic said that "he lost it and it went downhill" in the 1,600-meter run, but had the determination of a long-distance performer with his victory in the 800-meter run.
"I did what any other 800-meter runner does," Bostic said. "In the first quarter of the race, I didn't think I would win because I think I went out too fast, but I gutted it out in the end."
Smith finished second in the 400-meter dash with a mark of 50.86, while Catledge was fourth in the triple jump with a leap of 43-04, Julien Lewis claimed third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.87, Hughes was fourth in the 110-meter hurdles and the 4x200 relay team of Smith, Lewis, Devin Mitchell and Gabe Myles was third with a mark of 1:28.74. Joseph MacGown came in fourth in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:24.92.
In girls competition, Mary Elizabeth Stringer was third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:29.93, while Walker Mattox was fourth in the 1,600-meter run with a mark of 5:37.86 and fourth in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12:19.16.
The top four places in each event move on to next Saturday's state meet in Pearl.
"We've qualified a couple of them that were on the bubble and they stepped up," Barnett said. "Jacoby Smith really stepped up because he was ranked seventh coming into this, but was second today.
"Jalan was fifth and on the bubble (in the triple jump) and I told him he would have to jump 42 or 43 and he came out the very first jump and popped a 43. The 4x200 had a personal best once again and ran faster than we did before with a 1:28 and Mary Elizabeth Stringer had a personal best in the 800-meter run."
In the final team standings, the Jackets were fifth in North 6A with 72 points, while Clinton won with 110 points. The Lady Jackets came in 10th with 22 points and Jackson Murrah won with 89 points.
Pontotoc won Class 4A in boys (91 points) and girls (157 points).