Storybook Ending: Northcutt, Nash use last-second heroics to qualify for state track meet
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 1, 2006 - DENTON - Thanks to a pair of storybook endings, the track seasons for Bridgette Nash and Graham Northcutt will keep on going.

Nash, a senior shot putter, and Northcutt, a junior distance runner, each used a gritty individual performance on Saturday to qualify for the UIL state track and field meet.

The two will represent Sulphur Springs in two weeks in Austin after qualifying in the top two in their respective events at the Class 4A, Region II meet at Fouts Field on the University of North Texas campus.

Each appeared doomed to settle for a lower place, but used last-second heroics to move up.

Nash was the first to qualify, starting the shot put in a windy mist late Saturday morning, then finishing it in the cool sunshine.

There were two flights of 12 girls each in the contest, and Nash sandwiched a throw of 38-feet, 10 inches in between a pair of scratches. That was the best throw in the preliminaries, giving her the final attempt in the finals.

However, two other throwers - Christina Webb of Lincoln and Christy Austin of West Mesquite - both surpassed Nash on their first throws in the finals. Webb took the lead with a toss of 41-6 3/4, and Austin went 39-4 1/2.

Nash threw less than 38 feet on her two throws in the finals, then as the final girl in the competition, she unleashed a toss of 40-6 to leap frog Austin into second place, winning a trip to Austin in the process.

Nash was the alternate to the state meet the last two years, missing it by one inch last season.

"I was thinking, 'I've got to do this. I will not settle for being an alternate three years in a row,' " she said. "I was just concentrating on getting across the ring fast, watching my release and just getting it up and out there."

When the shot plunked down beyond the 40-feet arc, about two dozen SSHS athletes, coaches and fans sent up a cheer.

"I didn't know I had it until they started yelling," Nash said.

There was a lot of cheering going on when Northcutt and teammate Kasie Carrell competed in the 800-meter run. Because the stormy weather had postponed Friday's preliminary events, the 800 did not have prelims and was ran instead in two heats in the finals.

Lancaster's Aaron Isham, the defending regional champion, won the first heat in 1:58.20. Northcutt and Carrell were in the second, and what was considered to be the fastest heat.

It sure looked that way at the end of the first lap of the two-lap race. Northcutt and Carrell both came across the line in 57 seconds and were 11th and 12th, respectively.

"I felt pretty good, and I had some energy left, but there were so many runners in front of me I didn't know if I could get around them and what lane I would have to go in to get around them," Northcutt said. "But, it kind of opened up on the straight-away, and I was able to make my way through."

He took the outside lane and moved about four places around the curve with Carrell right behind him. With 200 meters to go, there were in fifth and sixth. Northcutt kept moving up, positioning himself in third with 100 meters to go, but he was still about 15 meters behind Lincoln's Alan Reed and Mansfield Timberview's Brandon Rossie.

With about 70 meters to go, he started moving up as the other runners tired. With 20 meters to go, Rossie got so tied up that he fell as Northcutt moved past him and with a strong finish, he outleaned Reed at the tape to win the race in 1:57.19. Reed came in 1/100th of a second behind him.

Carrell finished in sixth place in the heat in 2:00.62, and was seventh overall.

"I was kind of worried because they were both in front of me, and I realized I had to beat one of them to go to state," Northcutt said. "But, it didn't look like I was gaining on them. Then, as we went along in the last 100, I kind of gained a little bit and they slowed a little bit as they started cramping up.

"I pulled through at the end - I think all the miles I have put in helped me in the last few yards."

Northcutt, who was state alternate last year in the 3,200, later placed 10th in the 1,600 and Carrell was 15th. They had just about 90 minutes to recover from their grueling half-mile race.

Track coach Steve Hale was excited for both Nash and Northcutt. Only Greenville, which qualified a relay team and a hurdler, had more athletes from District 12-4A advance to the state meet.

"I was most pleased with their preparation, both mentally and physically," Hale said. "They prepared well to do their best, and they competed very hard.

"Graham showed a lot of heart and courage. That was a tremendous race, one of the best I've seen. He and Kasie started moving and they just swept by everybody."

They weren't the only ones to compete - there were 14 SSHS athletes who qualified for the regional meet.

For the girls, sophomore Kelsey Evans competed in the 800 and placed 18th in a time of 2:32.61. She also ran a leg on the 4x400 relay team, which placed fifth in their heat in 4:17.60, but did not place overall. Also on the relay were Trashonda Green, Kaitlyn Black and Whitney Roland.

The girls 4x200 team, composed of Green, Roland, Tanya Runion and Molly Smith, ran their race in 1:48.44 to come in 18th.

Freshman Cecily Adams also qualified in the 1,600-meter run and was just five seconds off her best time with a clocking of 6:23.11.

For the boys, Tate Ramirez ran a time of 10:33.21 in the 3,200-meter run to place 12th in the eight-lap event.

In the field events, Kaylon Page and Daymon Nash both cleared 5-8 in the high jump to tie for 14th, Jayden Spencer ended up 12th in the pole vault with a height of 12-0, and sophomore Rodney Evans came in 17th in the shot put with a 45-2 toss.

"That was a great group of kids," Hale said. "They competed very well. They were all there to support each other, and what they did is something we can build on for next year."

Notes: The only District 12-4A athletes to advance to the state meet besides Nash and Northcutt were North Lamar's Lindsay Thompson, second in the girls 800 in 2:16.08, Greenville hurdler Jordan Pitts, who won the boys 110 hurdles in 14.27, and the Greenville 4x200 relay team, second in 1:26.58. ... Lancaster ran away with the girls regional championship with 129 points. Dallas Kimball won the boys title with 73 points.

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