Slay bringing home a state title
Photo by Marvin Gentry
Slay shatters state high jump record
By Michael Butler
Tallassee High School senior Kayden Slay is a state champion. He is also a new state record holder. Slay took first place in the Class 5A high jump at the AHSAA State Track Championships in Gulf Shores on May 5.
Slay jumped higher than any other Alabama high school athlete had jumped before. Seven feet. That is taller than a standard door in your home.
"That's the highest I'd ever done to this day," said Slay, "but I jumped 6-10 at Troy a couple weeks before."
What may be even more amazing is that this is brand new to Slay. He just started participating with the THS track team after basketball season.
"This is my 17th year as the track coach in Tallassee (and) it's incredible," said head coach Danny Worley. "He's been with us for eight weeks."
Slay won all four events that he took part in at the sectional meet in Smiths Station (high jump, triple jump, long jump, 110-meter hurdles). In addition to his gold at the state meet, he added a silver in the long jump.
"It was really phenomenal," Worley added. "He's definitely one of the best athletes we've seen come through here."
Worley said the basketball transition benefitted Slay.
"With his vertical jump in basketball, we teach it like a layup. The high jump is just natural to him. He's such a hard worker, we had to shut him down some days in practice. He just wanted to keep going. He would want to get 100 jumps in a day."
Attention from colleges came almost as quickly as it took Slay to clear the seven-foot bar.
"I'm getting a couple of looks," said Slay. "I've got some visits planned. I'm not really deciding right now. I have Montevallo, Auburn, Alabama and Troy reaching out to me."
The record of 6 feet, 10½ inches by Lane Lenior of Chilton County stood for nearly 40 years - set in 1986. Ironically, Lenior has a tie to Tallassee.
"We got a call from Lance," Worley added. "He is related to Braxton and Brady Hancock, track guys who threw the javelin for us. I thought that was pretty neat."
Slay was sixth in the triple jump and in the running for another medal in the 110-meter hurdles.
"I was ahead of the number one seed," said Slay, "I think my head got to me a little bit. On the very last hurdle, (I) hit the hurdle and fell over."
Another success story from last weekend was James Bender, a teammate of Slay's on the basketball court. Bender was injured during the hoops season and not expected to be with the track team this spring.
"He ended last year as a four-event athlete in Gulf Shores," Worley noted. "He was coming back as our top guy. After the injury, he was determined to get back. Luckily, the leg that he injured was not the jump leg. That was the only thing he was able to do.
"At the meets, he would kind of hobble up there and get his jump in. He just about cleared six feet on his last jump which is incredible. As a senior, that was really good for him because he had been with us since the seventh grade."
As a team, the Tallassee boys were 12th overall with eight state qualifiers.
"Our sectional was the toughest. We consider it the SEC West," said Worley. "We told the kids if you made it to state, you've accomplished something."