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Daytona 500 had very humble start

By By Austin Bishop/EMG Regional Sports Director
Feb. 17, 2002
Scattershooting over the sports scene on a Sunday while seeking sightings of Red Farmer …
For the last two weeks, the focus of the motorsports world has been on the beautiful oceanside community of Daytona Beach, Fla.
NASCAR as we know it was birthed in this community in the early 1900s when automobile manufacturers gathered on the sand beaches to determine which make was the fastest.
For the record, in the first ever speed race Olds and Chevrolet tied at a whopping 57 miles per hour.
Things have come a long way from that point.
Eventually the event went from speed trials in front of a few hundred guests of local hotels to a four-plus mile competitive race between nearly 100 cars that included a two-mile stretch along the beach and a two-mile run on asphalt.
Now that is versatility.
Of course, things continued to change.
The racers of yesteryear would probably be amazed that more than 100,000 fans will pour into the Daytona International Speedway to see today's Daytona 500.
It promises to be an interesting race with Michael Waltrip trying to repeat, Dale Earnhardt Jr. trying to win the same race his father was killed in a year ago, Jeff Gordon seeking to defend his Winston Cup crown and Tony Stewart out to establish himself as the top driver in the business.
But no matter who wins, the thoughts of most fans will be on No. 3, the intimidator himself, who lost his life on the last turn of last year's 500.
What happened in Heidelberg?
West Lauderdale High School and girls basketball coach Jody Hurst probably won't have the same fortune as the Canadian pairs figure skating team that was awarded a second gold medal following controversy in the Olympics.
Nope, Heidelberg will forever be recognized as the Division 5-3A Girls Champions for 2002, following the Lady Oilers dramatic 53-50 win on Friday night.
And maybe that should be, I don't know.
As long as there are organized sports there will always be officials. As long as there are officials there will always be controversial calls.
Since I didn't personally observe the hectic final minute of Friday's game that saw the Lady Knights get hit with two technical fouls for apparently not handing the ball to the officials in the way the referees considered satisfactory, there is no way that I can judge the fairness of the decisions made.
But I must say that in the 25 years I've been in the business that was one of the strangest set of circumstances I've every heard about.
While it is very true that the Lady Knights may have been wronged, the Lady Oilers still had to make the free throws and make the baskets.
The good thing about this situation is that it is very likely that the two teams will get together again and face off in the South State Tournament next weekend.
It will be interesting to see how that one turns out.
As far as the girls from West Lauderdale go, let me hand out a little advice.
Not matter what happened, learn from it. Toughen up, be prepared to overcome such circumstances and prove yourselves to be the winners your coaches and fans know you are.
We all must climb over unfair obstacles in our lifetime, just consider this to be one of many.
It is very easy to blame your circumstances, when perhaps the best thing to do is just suck it up and take care of business the next time out.
Wildcats win
true thriller
Now that was a wild one.
So much happened in the last quarter and two overtime periods of Meridian High School's dramatic 78-76 overtime win in the boys finals of the Division 2-5A Tournament that it was hard to write it all down.
The game had so many twists and turns you would have thought it was a mountain road, instead of a high school basketball contest.
On a pair of occasions Meridian appeared poised to take the game over Q once when the Wildcats scored the first six points of the third quarter to go ahead 36-27.
But Columbus, behind the sharp-shooting of the incredible Anthony Johnson, regained the lead. Johnson hit on eight three-pointers, a few which looked like he was too far away to even see the rim, much less knock down the shot.
Meridian had its stars as well.
In one key stretch of the fourth quarter, which saw Meridian rally from a 48-47 deficit to take a 56-53 lead, Fred Cole scored all nine of the Wildcats points.
Jamaine Winfield stepped it up both at the free throw line and from behind the three-point arc as the game wound down, and Jason Windom closed the deal with a power move to make the last basket.
But to just write about two-or-three players and a handful of baskets does a disservice to the quality and excitement of the game.
It was truly one that a person needed to see to appreciate.
If things fall right for the Wildcats, MHS could be hosting the MHSAA Class 5A North State Tournament next weekend.
The most important thing that needs to happen is that Horn Lake and Clinton both in line in front of MHS to host the event need to lose.
Clinton hosts powerful Murrah in the first round on Tuesday, while Columbus travels to Horn Lake and Meridian entertains Olive Branch.
If Meridian were to wind up as host, that would mean that Murrah and Columbus would both be in the field at MHS. The fourth team would likely be Callaway.
If that happens, get to the gym early. Because it is going to be packed for what could truly be a classic four-team tournament.