HOUSTON - On a national stage, a pair of neighborhood pals from Hagerstown stole the show.
In a battle for the ages, James Searcy edged his friend Jalyx Hunt to win the high jump title at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Houston on Wednesday. The two 11-year-olds competed in the boys Sub-Midget (born in 2001) division.
When it was over, both had a share of the AAU national age-group record in the event - 5 feet, 1 inch. The gold went to Searcy, while Hunt got the silver. Jordan Smith, of San Antonio, placed third at 4-10.
“Everybody was cheering, and I was getting pumped up. I knew I could win it,” said Searcy, who won his third straight national age-group title in the high jump. “Winning three times in a row is crazy.”
Searcy and Hunt both cleared 5 feet on their first attempts and, at the time, had no misses for the competition. After they each missed on three attempts at 5-2, they went to a jump-off.
“Going into the tiebreaker, I was really nervous,” said Searcy, who competes for the local Mountain Express club team.
After they each missed once at 5-1, the bar was lowered to 5-0, which they both cleared on their first attempts. The bar then was raised to 5-1, and they both immediately cleared it, tying the national record set in 2004.
“It was crazy,” said James Hunt, Jalyx’s father, who coaches his son with the local Mach 1 club team. “The crowd was into it. Thousands of people were watching and cheering.”
The bar then was raised to 5-2 again, and after they each missed once, it went back to 5-1. After Hunt missed, Searcy cleared it for the victory.
“When he missed it, I knew it was my time,” Searcy said. “I gave it my all and cleared it.”
“We were on the sidelines just pacing,” said Mountain Express coach Joseph Farrell. “Oh, my gosh, it was such an exciting moment.”
Neither had ever soared higher than 4-10 before Wednesday.
“It was one for the record books,” James Hunt said. “They were battling. It’s a shame either of them had to lose. But if Jalyx was going to lose, he wanted James to win it. He wasn’t upset because James is his friend.”
While there were 40 competitors in the event from all over the United States, it came down to two friends who live two houses apart on Woodhaven Drive in Hagerstown’s Fountain Head North neighborhood. They’ll both be in the sixth grade at Northern Middle School this year.
“They’ve been in the same class since third grade,” James Hunt said. “It’s just very, very bizarre.”
Both boys are set to compete Friday in the long jump - an event Jalyx Hunt won an AAU national title in last year.