Marion County sports saw several highlights in 2018.
The Journal Record’s Top 10 Sports Stories of 2018 range from Winfield City High School’s cheerleaders winning the world championship--again--to Marion County High School’s Braden Pyron being named a Wendy’s High School Heisman state winner.
Here is the list of the Top 10 sports stories published by the Journal Record in 2018, along with a short list of other stories which earned honorable mention status.
1.) Winfield cheer wins
world championship again
In addition to winning the national title, the Winfield cheerleading squad managed to take home world championship honors for the second year in a row at the annual event hosted by officials at Walt Disney World.
This marked the eighth national championship for the program, but the second time the squad has laid claim to being the best in the world in its division.
The competitions were held on Feb. 10 and 11 in Orlando, Fla.
The championship squad managed to win both the state title and the Southern Regionals in November and December.
Team members include: captain Jenna Wood, co-captain Brook McCaleb, Holland Moore, Mikarah Howell, Ashley Welch, Anna Kate Gruwell, Julia Taylor, Kati Rose Hardin, Meg Bowen, Savannah Williamson, Sarah Beth Cotton, Mackenzie Campbell, Jacie Cummings, Memory Clark, Macy Cummings, Makenna Tucker, Halie Lowry, Melody Harrison, Lexi Welch, Olivia Burleson and Abi Webb.
2.) Phillips girls earn red map
Phillips finished as the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A Girls State Runner-up after losing 52-38 to Spring Garden on Thursday, March 1, at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
The loss denied Phillips its first state title in 32 years when the She Bears won back-to-back crowns in 1985 and 1986.
The She Bears’ Gracie Hallman, who was named to the all-tournament team, finished with a team-high 12 points. The sophomore added four rebounds, one assist and a steal.
Julianna Taylor and Ally McCollum each had eight points. Taylor added 10 rebounds, one assist and a steal in her final basketball game for the She Bears. McCollum, who was named to the all-tournament team, had eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Lexie Dishner had six points, five rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal. Lexie Hajjar and Baily Bishop added two points apiece. Hajjar had two rebounds and a steal while Bishop pulled down one board.
Phillips finished the season 29-4.
3.) AHSAA introduces replay to football
The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced a partnership with DV Sport Replay as the state looks to implement instant replay in high school football, which was announced on Thursday, April 12.
According to AHSAA Central Board President and Hackleburg High School Principal John Hardin, the rule change made Alabama the first state to allow replays during regular season and postseason play, where the necessary equipment is available.
Hackleburg was the lone school in Marion County to purchase replay equipment and used the service once with the call being overturned after a challenge by Hackleburg head football coach Rod Hudson in the Panthers’ 22-12 victory over Phil Campbell.
4.) Winfield wins 4A track and field title,
Estes sets state record
Winfield won the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 4A State Outdoor Track and Field title that began on Thursday, May 3, and ended on Saturday, May 5.
The Pirates paced the state’s fourth largest classification with 47 points, followed by Catholic-Montgomery’s 36 points and Randolph’s 33 points rounding out the Top 3.
Josh Estes and Walker Junkin represented the school’s first-place finishers in the javelin and pole vault events, respectively.
Estes set a new Class 4A mark with a toss of 196-4 while Junkin captured the top spot in the pole vault with a leap of 15-6.
5.) Fuqua tops nation, ranks
third in world in javelin
Winfield native Jim Fuqua has returned--and in a big way--to competition after over two years out of javelin events due to surgeries.
The 65-year-old competed in the 65- to 69-year-old age division in a competition at Lawrenceville, Ga., on Saturday, April 28.
The Lab Tests event saw Fuqua come away tops in the nation with a throw of 168 feet, which bested the nation’s second place thrower by over 18 feet.
Fuqua has undergone nearly 50 surgeries in his lifetime, including two back surgeries and the repair of a torn tendon in his shoulder that kept him out of all competitions, save one, the last 2 1/2 years.
6.) Gilstrap makes school history
Bradie Gilstrap has entered the history books at Hamilton High School. Gilstrap became the first player in HHS history to sign a volleyball scholarship after signing with Judson College on April 30.
Gilstrap began playing in her 10th-grade year and quickly became a dominant force on the team, according to Karin Holliday, former Hamilton High School volleyball coach.
7.) Webb named to North squad
Hamilton’s Justin Webb was named to the 2018 North-South Basketball All-Star roster on Friday, April 13.
The 5-11, 160-pound guard is the lone representative from Marion County out of the 60 junior athletes (30 boys, 30 girls) chosen for the contest.
Webb earned the nomination after posting 15.6 points per game, while connecting on 71-of-166 shots from behind the 3-point line (42.8 percent). He also converted 47-of-79 free throw attempts (59.5 percent).
8.) Chaffin, Halcomb,
Pugh recognized by AHSAA
The Alabama High School Athletic Association recognized Jimmy Chaffin with the Greg Brewer Distinguished Service Award at the Saturday, July 21, AHSAA Officials Awards Luncheon at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
Chaffin, along with five other officials, combined for 257 years of officiating experience.
Chaffin has been officiating in Northwest Alabama for 48 years.
Pugh, 49, was named the AHSAA District Official of the Year for the Northwest District in softball.
Halcomb, 53, was named the AHSAA District Official of the Year for the West Central District in football.
9.) Pirate football finishes
unbeaten regular season
Winfield’s football team finished the 2018 regular season a perfect 10-0.
The Pirates opened the season with 11 straight wins over Haleyville, Fayette County, Gordo, Holt, Lamar County, Hamilton, Oakman, Carbon Hill, Greene County, Hale County and Houston Academy before losing to eventual Class 3A champion Flomaton.
Winfield outscored opponents 443-167 and finished as Class 3A’s third-ranked team, according to the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
10.) Harbin named 4A hitter of the year
Winfield’s Andrea Harbin was named Class 4A’s Hitter of the Year in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s 2018 All-State Softball Team.
Harbin finished the season with a .564 batting average, 17 home runs, 42 stolen bases, 27 doubles and one triple. She knocked in 58 RBIs and scored 81 times. In 180 plate appearances, Harbin had 84 hits, 27 walks, was hit by pitches twice and struck out just seven times.
Harbin, who played catcher or shortstop most of the season for the Lady Pirates, committed four errors on the year for a .976 fielding percentage. The junior reached base at a .628 clip.
The Lady Pirate athlete was named as both Class 4A’s hitter of the year and to the classification’s first team as a utility player.
While the previous stories were selected as the Top 10 stories of 2018, there were other events and persons who earned headlines over the course of the year.
A few of those headlines were selected to be a part of our honorable mention category (in no particular order):
• Marion County Sports Hall of Fame welcomes 25th class: The Marion County Sports Hall of Fame welcomed the 2018 nominees as its 25th class.
The 27 new members include: Brilliant’s Randy Berryhill, Jerome Dodd, Megon Burleson Martin, James Millard Ward, Robert Willard Ward; Hackleburg’s James Lawrence, Rynn McGuire, Jon McKinney, Tiffany Raper Ring; Hamilton’s Alan Cantrell, Roger Ellis, Karin Holliday, Alex Lindley; Marion County’s Lyle Atkinson, Sarah Hughes, Byron Pollard, Roger “Peanut” Dale Rye, Davin Loraine Tucker, Kelee Baker Williams; Phillips’ Mark Crumpton, Mary Alma Frix, Sonny Frix, Bart Phillips; and Winfield’s Adrian Cox Dickerson, Tyler Estes, Thomas “Tommy” Harbin and Brad May.
• Pyron scores 2,000th career point: Marion County High School’s Braden Pyron scored his 2,000th career point.
The senior reached the milestone against Hubbertville on Friday, Nov. 30. Pyron sits at 2,234 points for his career.
• Cunningham named ACC Freshman of the Year: Former Winfield standout Trey Cunningham has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Freshman of the Year for outdoor track and field on Friday, June 15.
Cunningham finished fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to earn All-American honors.
See complete story in the Journal Record.