The best and worst of 2003

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2003

2003 provided yet another banner year for sports in Shelby County. New Year’s day marks my first full calendar year at the Reporter.

I witnessed the highs and lows of sports in Shelby County in 2003, first as a reporter and then as sports editor when I took over the position in September.

Here’s a look back at some of the best and worst in the year in sports.

Best dramatic finish: County softball tournament, April

Montevallo softball coach Ron Holsombeck called it one of the most exciting finishes to the Shelby County tournament in years.

Oak Mountain High School knocked off Thompson, Calera and Montevallo, while Pelham fought its way out of the loser’s bracket to earn a spot in the finals.

Pelham managed just three hits off Eagles pitcher Kari Gunnells, who struck out 10 in the finale, but the Panthers managed to score 2 runs on a Ryan Elsea double in the sixth inning.

The 2-0 Pelham lead set the stage for this year’s most exciting finish &045; Katie Cooley’s grand slam over the scoreboard at Montevallo’s Orr Park to give Oak Mountain the county championship.

Worst place to be on the football field: Anywhere near Thompson High School’s Tony Bell.

The senior linebacker is the Warriors’ hardest hitter and one of the state’s top recruits.

Thompson head coach Ricky Seale was often concerned for the safety of his players when the team ran live drills in practice because of Bell’s ability to punish those in his path.

The headhunter is one of Shelby County’s most feared football players.

Best example of taking lemons and making lemonade: Vincent High School track team.

They have no high jump pit, no pole vault pit, no shot or discus circle, no long jump pit and no track. But that didn’t stop the Vincent Yellow Jackets from claiming their second straight state championship in May.

The Vincent track team practiced by running the school bus parking loop, throwing in the grass outside the school and using chalk marks to simulate a toe board for practicing their jumps.

They even borrowed much of their equipment from other schools.

But the Yellow Jackets made the most of their opportunities, scoring 109 points to claim back-to-back 2A state championships in track and field.

Plans are in the works for a new track to be built at the school.

Worst place to chase back-to-back championships: Bruno’s Memorial Classic.

The Bruno’s Memorial Classic got its 12th different winner in as many years when Tom Jenkins shot a 5-under-par 67 in May.

Jenkins held off Hale Irwin, Bruce Fleisher and Jim Colbert to finish at 16 under and claim his fourth win in five years on the Champions Tour.

Bruno’s has now had 12 champions in 12 years; only the Kroger Classic has had more consecutive different winners (13).

Best football name in Shelby County: Castille.

Briarwood’s Simeon Castille was named to two All-American teams in December after leading the Lions to a Class 5A state championship at Legion Field in Birmingham. The senior defensive back is a highly-touted recruiting prospect for this winter’s signing class.

His older brother and Briarwood graduate, Tim, finished his first season at the University of Alabama this fall after signing a scholarship with the Tide in February.

Jeremiah Castille, father of Tim and Simeon, was an All-American defensive back for coach Paul &uot;Bear&uot; Bryant.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at