Jun. 11—FALKVILLE — The history of the track and field program at Falkville includes 10 state championships and countless stories of athletes overcoming adversity to experience success.
The Blue Devils did not pick up another state championship this year, but there is another story of success overcoming failure.
Mikell Philyaw was a certain contender for state championship honors in the Class 2A 110-meter hurdles, but a freak incident in the preliminary race caused him to be disqualified.
Philyaw did not allow the agony of defeat to keep him down. He came back the next day to experience the thrill of victory by winning the state championship in the 300-meter hurdles.
The senior is The Daily's Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"Mikell is one of the hardest workers I've probably ever coached," Falkville coach Jace Wilemon said. "He's got a little bit of a crazy side to him, too, which makes him a lot of fun to coach."
Small schools like Falkville call on athletes to play multiple sports, and Philyaw has answered that call. He was a star receiver and linebacker on the football team. In the past he would split the spring sports season between baseball and track.
"That was pretty hectic trying to work that schedule out," Philyaw said. "I quit baseball because I wanted to spend more time with track.
"One day I was out here running and Coach Wilemon suggested I try the hurdles. I fell in love with the hurdles. This was the event for me. I became a true hurdler."
Hard work turned Philyaw into a potential contender for state championship honors last year, but COVID ended the track and field season after it had barely started.
This year was Philyaw's final chance. He showed up at the state meet in Cullman prepared to claim two state championships in the hurdles.
In his 110 preliminary heat, Philyaw jumped out to the lead and would finish first, but he was quickly disqualified.
"His foot clipped the last hurdle just enough to flip it in the air," Wilemon said. "It came down in the next lane."
Running in that lane was Philyaw's teammate Danny Shephard, who caught the hurdle. According to the rule book, any obstruction of a runner caused by another runner means an automatic disqualification.
"I saw the red flag go up for the disqualification," Philyaw said. "I didn't know what had happened. I couldn't believe it when I did find out. Everybody on our team was upset."
Wilemon argued against the disqualification. Shephard even asked to be allowed to take the disqualification.
Demarcus Holloway of LaFayette would win the 110 with a time of 16.13. Philyaw's personal record is 16.
"There's no doubt he would have been the 110 state champion," Wilemon said.
Philyaw left no doubts in the 300. His 44.59 time beat Westminster Christian's David Haskins by 0.2 seconds. There was no strange incident with a hurdle to keep Philyaw from his state championship.
"Our team means a lot to me. What has made it so special is how everybody works to be a leader," Philyaw said. "That's what I have tried to be. If you don't want to be a leader, you probably aren't going to be successful."
Philyaw plans to continue his track and field career at the University of Mobile.
— email@example.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.