AC students rally around Fife Relays like former coach sacrificed for them

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Life, as spellbinding and breathtaking as it is, doesn’t have enough Kramer Fifes to go around.

Folks that go out of their way to ensure the happiness of those around them. Gentle beings who make it their mission while on earth to act as guardian angels for others.

Yes, the Kramer Fifes of this world aren’t a dime a dozen, and that’s why it’s still difficult for those who had the pleasure of knowing Fife to admit that he is gone.

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Fife, 22, an Adams County Christian School alum and former assistant coach at ACCS, was killed March 23, 2003, in a singular vehicle accident on U.S. 61 north of Port Gibson.

His spirit and legacy live on through the impressionable lives he touched, and via the first annual Kramer Fife Relays that begin at AC’s Bobby Marks Stadium at 1 p.m. today.

ACCS head football coach/athletic director Keith Walters came up with a unique way to honor both the participants and Fife’s memory with commemorative T-shirts instead of award ribbons.

The buzz over the shirt &045; which boasts a &uot;51&uot; for the jersey number Fife wore as a Rebel from 1996-98 and the quote, &uot;Ain’t nothing but a winner&uot; &045; got around AC’s campus and soon the demand became so high, Walters ordered an additional 350 shirts.

&uot;I think it’s quite a tribute to Kramer,&uot; Walters said. &uot;I’ve been telling people if this was the ‘Keith Walters Track Meet’ we would’ve sold three and my wife would’ve bought two of them.&uot;

Today’s 12-team meet features local Mississippi Private School Association teams, such as Trinity, Huntington, Tensas and WCCA, and others, such as Tallulah, Parklane, Riverfield and Chamberlain-Hunt.

It also marks the first real test for AC’s girls’ squad that finished third at the Class AAA state meet last year.

Senior Nikki Hankins begins her title defense of the 200- and 400-meters.

&uot;I’m definitely gonna defend my state championships. I’m hoping to break 60 (seconds) by state,&uot; said Hankins, who ran a 60-flat in the 400 state final last year. &uot;I want to break the overall MPSA record, which is around 57.&uot;

With the loss of Tiffany Collier, who graduated in 2003, the Lady Rebels biggest nemesis for a state title once again is depth.

Collier set a new MPSA record in the 300-meter hurdles at State last year when she won the event in a time of 46.01 seconds. She also won the 100-meters and served as a leg on the 400- and 800-meter relay teams, which finished second, and the mile relay that also set an MPSA record.

&uot;Nobody can fill Tiffany Collier’s shoes, but we do have a lot of girls that wear a mighty big shoes of their own,&uot; AC track head coach Bill Richardson said. &uot;Last year our goal was to do good personally because we didn’t have the depth to go get third and fourth place finishes.&uot;

Into Collier’s spot is senior Kim Robertson, who is more accustom to distance events. Hankins, Anna McLemore and Brittany Gamberi make up the other legs of the sprint relay teams.

Robertson helped the Lady Rebels to a time of 4:13 in the 1,600-meter relay at State last year, breaking the previous MPSA record of 4:15.

While there is not that much window for Robertson to adjust in becoming the fourth sprinter, Hankins feels as though she’s picking it up rather easily.

&uot;(Robertson) is giving up her distance events to try and become the fourth sprinter. It’s about sacrificing wherever,&uot; said Richardson, a fitting theme for the Fife Relays.

Richardson remembers Fife for his heart and not necessarily his athleticism while he was a member of Richardson’s track teams in the late 1990s.

That familiar attitude and aura carried over to his brief stint as a coach at AC.

Whether he was serving as the baseball team’s bus driver, or breaking down game film for Walters’ football teams, Fife put his life aside for the young men and women at ACCS.

The students’ response this week has reflected that.

&uot;We’ve got kids in school that don’t run track, but want to be in this meet because of Kramer,&uot; Richardson said. &uot;They want to participate. That speaks volumes of the person he was.

&uot;The kids want to honor is memory any way they can. They might not win, but that doesn’t matter.&uot;

Hankins always considered Fife a big brother. A friend who was never afraid to dial Hankins’ cell phone to make sure she was where she was supposed to be.

&uot;Nobody didn’t like Kramer,&uot; she said. &uot;He was just an awesome person. He had those characteristics to make you laugh.&uot;