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Four Central athletes sign with track programs


TUSCALOOSA | The Central High School track and field program continued a year for the record books Thursday afternoon. After the girls team finished sixth in the state and the boys team finished third, the Falcons had four athletes sign to compete at the collegiate level.

Devon Lockett will be attending Chattahoochee Technical College, a two-year institution, after breaking the state record in the shot put this season in a state championship-winning effort. Lockett also finished sixth in the discus and third in the javelin. Brandon Bell will stay in Tuscaloosa and compete for Stillman College after finishing fifth in the state in the 300-meter hurdles.

Central also had two girls sign athletic scholarships. Sharday Branch will be joining the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles after a third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles, and Latasha Russell will likely compete in the heptathlon for the South Alabama Jaguars.

This was the first time in coach Deon Irby’s career at Central that he has had four athletes sign athletic scholarships in one year.

Stillman-bound Bell is finding comfort in his decision to stay at home.

"Stillman, it’s not too far from home, and it’s a good school, as far as I’m concerned," Bell said. "I have a grandmother at home and my mom, I don’t want to leave home."

Irby is happy to have Bell, as he called it, "right down the street."

"I can have him come back and speak and try to motivate some of the other kids as to what they can obtain if they stay focused," Irby said.

Branch is finding the comfort of home at Southern Miss, as well.

"When I went there, I fell in love with the campus," Branch said. "The people there were friendly, the track team reminded me of my track team, which really pulled me forward."

Branch will not be alone in the Golden Eagle track program, as she will be accompanied there by Northridge’s Chris Monroe.

"My best friend, Chris Monroe, signed with them the other day," Branch said. "He had an influence."

Irby also has connections to Southern Miss. He was in the University of Alabama track and field program with the coach of the Golden Eagles, Kevin Stephen.

"After talking with the coach and looking at the conference results from this year, I think she’ll come in and score points her freshman year," Irby said. "If she works hard and stays focused, I think she’ll do well."

Russell has found her dream college in South Alabama.

"I went down there for volleyball and I loved the campus, loved the people down there (in Mobile), loved the atmosphere and the town," Russell said. "I fell in love with it from there."

Irby said, "From there on, it was South Alabama. It was where she wanted to go."

Russell may have known where she wanted to go, but not what she wanted to play. Excelling in volleyball, basketball and track, she went with her first sporting love.

Russell can now use her experience from the other sports to succeed in track.

"She can do so many different events," Irby said. "For her, getting to that college level where you have more coaches that specialize in certain areas, I think her times will drop, her throws will go farther and her jumps will go farther."

Lockett should have an opportunity to continue on to the top of collegiate track and field after his time at Chattahoochee Tech. Irby said that Alabama, Troy, Ole Miss and Southern Miss all showed interest in Lockett.

"He has the body type, he has the body build, plus he has the overall athleticism to do well at the next level," Irby said.