GHSA Boys Track & Field Championship Preview

110506 - Jefferson, Ga. - The late afternoon sunlight casts long shadows of the lead pack during the Class AAAA 3,200 meter run final at the Boys High School Track event at Memorial Stadium Friday afternoon in Jefferson, Ga., May 6, 2011. Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com

Credit: Craig Sager

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110506 - Jefferson, Ga. - The late afternoon sunlight casts long shadows of the lead pack during the Class AAAA 3,200 meter run final at the Boys High School Track event at Memorial Stadium Friday afternoon in Jefferson, Ga., May 6, 2011. Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com

Credit: Craig Sager

Credit: Craig Sager

Three first-time champions (Rockdale County, Cedar Grove, Terrell County) and a first-ever outright title by Greater Atlanta Christian in Class AA penned an unexpected narrative at last year’s state meet. Southwest DeKalb snapped a seven-year drought to return to the podium for the ninth time in school history and Sandy Creek ended a six-year drought for its third state title since its first in 2007. The only team that successfully defended its title was Athens Christian, which is searching for its seventh state title since 2007 this weekend.

In the weekend’s fastest race, Jalen Virgil of Mountain View and Roswell’s Tyson Spears lead the Class AAAAAA field into the 100 meter dash. Virgil placed second and Spears placed third at last year’s state meet to Rockdale County’s Lawrence Crawford, who has since graduate. Virgil clocked a 10.56, while Spears posted a 10.50 at sectionals.

The 1,600 meter competition is another must-see event this weekend last year’s winner Miles Yapp of Brookwood graduated. Lambert’s Jonathan Schwind posted the fastest time at sectionals (4:19.63) and will look to improve on last year’s third-place finish, while Lakeside-DeKalb’s Davis Stockwell returns after posting a runner-up finish last year. Brookwood’s Zach Israel clocked a 4:24.89 at sectionals to edge the Region 1,3,7,8 competition and could have the Broncos on the podium for consecutive years.

In Class AAAAAA, several underclassmen are entering the weekend as state title favorites. Newton’s Elija Godwin posted a 46.25 in the 400 meter dash at sectionals and will be an important leader for the Rams this weekend. Newton enters the state meet with the fastest times in the 4X100 meter relay and the 4x400 meter relay. Johns Creek sophomore Caden Ciul (38.91) is one of five runners that broke the 39 second mark in the 300 meter hurdles, which is an event to watch for with South Gwinnett’s Antuane Dennard, who is also competing in the 100 meter hurdles and high jump. Kennesaw Mountain’s Robert Dunning took the 300 meter hurdles last year with a 37.47.

Sprinters Terryon and Terry Conwell lead the defending champion Southwest DeKalb Panthers in Class AAAAA. Terryon posted a 20.94 in the 200 meter dash at sectionals, while Terry finished second with a 21.32. Terryon blazed the track with a 10.45 in the 100 meter dash, while Terry placed first in the 400 meter dash with a 47.73. This duo makes Southwest DeKalb a strong favorite to take the 4x100 meter relay and the 4x400 relay also and they placed first in both categories at sectionals.

Stephenson’s Denzel Harper is a talented athlete to watch this weekend as he placed first in three different events at sectionals. Harper leads the title contenders for the long jump (23-05.50), 100 meter hurdles (14.49) and 300 meter hurdles (37.89) titles.

In Class AAAA, eight sprinters broke 11 seconds in the 100 meter dash sectionals, with Eastside’s Eric Stokes leading the way with a 10.70. Stokes bested the field with a 22.13 in the 200 meter dash and Eastside also carries the fasted relay times into the weekend as a result. Marist should once again dominate the endurance races as Frank Pittman dominated the 1600 meter run at sectionals with a 4:08.39. The high jump features Marcus Cade (Thomson), Ratayvius Jackson (Eastside) and Luke Johns (Southeast Whitfield), who all tied at sectionals with a first-place 6-04.00. Cade and Jackson will also go head to head in the long jump, while Jackson will face Mt. Zion’s Timotheus Slade in the triple jump as presumptive favorites.

Darius Freeman and Adrian Green are gone from last year’s dominant Cedar Grove relay team, but the Saints are in line to defend their state title in Class AAA this season. Sophomore Israel Spivey and senior Andre Burrell return to the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relay teams that swept the finals in 2015. At Sectionals this year the Saints placed first with a 41.70 time in the 4x100, good enough to best last year’s state finals time of 41.73. The 4x400 team didn’t quite match last year’s time, but it was still good enough to grab first at Sectionals with a 3:23.45.

In the hurdles, Jessie Reverio and Jadon Haselwood are standouts. Reverio and Haselwood will be heavy favorites, especially in the 300 meter hurdles. Reverio scored a first-place time of 39.22 while Haselwood, a freshman, finished third with a 40.59 time.

Last year Greater Atlanta Christian won its first state title since tying with Metter back in 1981. This season’s state finals will feature a wide open field with plenty of teams in the running to capture the gold. Region 6 rivals Wesleyan and Holy Innocents’ are among contenders vying for the crown. The Wolves posted the fastest time in the Sectionals in both the 4x100 meter relay (42.62) and 4x400 meter relay (3:25.52). Senior Jordan Mack has been an individual standout and enters the 100 meter dash as Wesleyan’s top sprinter boasting a 10.98 time. Holy Innocents’ will score points via the 800 meter run where senior Braxton Lindley (2:00.58) and junior Zach Henry (2:01.01) finished one and two in the Sectionals. Lindley placed second last year in the finals with a time of 1:59.92.

Fitzgerald fell to GAC 81-72 for a second-place finish in 2015. This year the Purple Hurricanes look to score points with Chandler Eckler in the pole vault and Willie Ross in the long jump. Both took home first-place in the Sectional meet with Eckler clearing 14 feet and Ross clearing 6-04.00. The discus will come down to a pair of sophomores as Macon County’s Nathaniel Oliver (161-03.00) and Screven County’s CJ Wright (160-08.00) are the two clear cut frontrunners. Last year’s winner tossed a 152-03, so the bar has been set even higher this season.

Star Power

Athens Christian’s Class A-Private dynasty will face its toughest challenge. In order for the Eagles to win their sixth-straight title, they will have to escape a field that has narrowed the gap from themselves and the champs.

Multi-sport star Demetris Robertson announced on May 1 that he will be playing college football at Cal. The Savannah Christian stud is a five-star wide receiver and led the Raiders basketball team in scoring, but his second calling might be track and field. He took home the gold with a 23-00.25 long jump in 2015 and has the ability to carry the Raiders one more time this year.

Robertson dominated at Sectionals, placing first in every individual event he participated in including the 100 meter dash (10.58), 200 meter dash (21.67) and the long jump (23-02.25).

Terrell County won its first state title in track and field a year ago, but the Greenwave have lost a bulk of their standouts. Second-place finisher Turner County and ninth-place Commerce are two teams to keep an eye on.