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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee’s Tavarious Griffin (12) cuts down the net after winning the area championship.

Note: This is the second in a six-part series highlighting the biggest moments from sports in Elmore County during the 2019-20 academic year.

Macey Stewart wins gold medal

Despite being just an eighth-grader, Macey Stewart represented Tallassee extremely well at the AHSAA Class 1A-5A Swimming and Diving Championships in Auburn this year.

Stewart dominated her preliminary race in the 100-yard freestyle and somehow did even better in the championship race. She posted a time of 53.55 seconds, which was nearly three-tenths of a second better than the rest of the field, to win the gold medal.

Stewart also picked up a fourth-place finish in the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 25.29 seconds. She was only a second behind winner Prather Hargrove of Trinity Presbyterian.

 

Tallassee softball reaches first No. 1 ranking in program history

In the first Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings of the season, Tallassee’s softball team made a bit of its own history, reaching the top spot for the first time ever. Tallassee was coming off its championship victory at the Wetumpka Softball Tournament which included wins over two reigning state champions, including now-Class 5A No. 2 Hayden. The Tigers were riding a 14-game winning streak and it was enough to gain some statewide attention.

“I told them we were No. 1 at the end of the season and no one can take that from you,” Tallassee coach Pat Love said. “That’s from the work in the offseason and how you practiced every day. Everything we accomplished was from that. The way we look at our season was as a success.”

 

Zak Haynes wins title in sixth trip to state tournament

Between injury problems and just tough competition, Zak Haynes had never claimed the gold medal during his first five trips to the AHSAA Wrestling State Championships. That all changed in February when Haynes went into the tournament as one of the favorites at 126 pounds and he lived up to the standard.

Haynes picked up a 7-4 decision over Hayden’s Evan Phillips to finally reign supreme at the AHSAA Class 1A-5A Wrestling Championships in Huntsville.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt,” Haynes said. “I can’t even describe that feeling. It’s been a long time coming. I feel like I’ve been pretty close the past couple years, and this year, I just felt like it was meant to be. I worked harder than I ever have before and that’s what happened right here.”

 

Woodrow Dean captures silver at state XC meet

For the first time in the history of the Tallassee cross country program, a runner finished a 5K race in under 16 minutes. Woodrow Dean saved his best performance for the final meet of the season as he beat his old personal record by nearly 30 seconds by crossing the finish line at the AHSAA Cross Country Championships in 15:51.85.

“We really thought he could maybe make into the top 10 entering the day,” Tallassee coach Danny Worley said. “But he surprised us. He had a great race and it all came together for him.”

Dean’s time was good enough for a second-place finish in Class 5A and it was the 10th fastest time of any classification. He came in 1.69 seconds behind Scottsboro’s Cooper Atkins and Dean said being that close to the leader helped push him during the final mile.

 

Tallassee hoops claim area tournament title

Brewbaker Tech’s Evan Carter put his Rams in prime position to pull off an upset in the Class 5A Area 4 championship game. Carter scored 10 consecutive points spanning the final two quarters to hand the Tigers their biggest deficit of the night.

However, Tallassee outscored Brew Tech by 13 points in the final five minutes to secure a 44-41 victory to win its second area title in three years.

“It wasn’t hard to figure out that we had to change something up,” Tallassee coach Keiven Mixson said. “Evan was going off and it didn’t look good. I had a peace of mind (that night) though. I usually get anxious but when we were down 10, I told our guys to calm down and it just worked out. It shows you hard work pays off.”

Jamicah Humphery hit the go-ahead shot with 15 seconds to go and finished with 12 points. Tavarious Griffin led the Tigers with 13 points.

 

Tavarious Griffin caps busy week with buzzer beater

During a seven-day span in February, Tavarious Griffin found himself in the spotlight on more than one occasion. He started the week by signing a Division 1 scholarship to play football at Alcorn State. The next day, Griffin helped the Tigers defeat Brew Tech in the area championship.

“It has been crazy but it has been full of blessings,” Griffin said. “Getting the win against Beauregard then waking up the next morning to sign on one of the biggest days of my life. Then coming in here and getting this win. It’s been crazy.”

If those two moments were not big enough, Griffin played hero in his final game in his home gym. After the Tigers blew a fourth-quarter lead to Charles Henderson, Griffin found himself in the right spot at the right time, finishing off a putback just before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 55-53 win in the sub-regional round. 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.