(by Ryan McClay)
Chapel Hill Boys and Girls won team honors at 'Rumble in the Jungle'
In a year full of question marks, Chapel Hill looks to stamp an exclamation point in history as the first 4A program since 2014 (and the 7th ever) to take both the boys and girls 4A titles when they travel to Rome on Thursday. Can traditional powerhouses St. Pius X, Marist, Jefferson, or Woodward crash the party at Chapel Hill?
4A Girls Team: Chapel Hill, based on this season's best mark of all qualifiers, is projected to win by 13 points over Marist and 24 points over Woodward. While on paper this is a comfortable lead, crazy things can happen at State which may make this team battle very interesting. Even so, Chapel Hill is projected to score big in 10 events which may be enough to uproot any other challengers if things go right. If something goes wrong, then traditional distance power Marist can easily rack up points in the distance events as usual, but can they find critical points in the hurdles and/or jumps? Traditional sprint power Woodward is heavy on the sprint side, but this season, they have more balance across the board than Marist but also have a bigger gap to close than Marist. To make matters even more interesting, the battle for the final podium spot appears to be among Spalding, Jefferson, St. Pius X, Westover, Howard, Baldwin, and Blessed Trinity who are all only separated by 8 points.
4A Girls 800m Finals at Berry last season
4A Girls Events to Watch: The girls' 800m appears to be a critical event as both Marist and Chapel Hill have a bullet at sub-2:22. Additionally, Chapel Hill, Woodward, and Marist all have representatives in both hurdle events. To make it even more interesting, all three teams are also represented in both relays. Could this become every track fan's dream and come down to the 4x400m relay? Other key events include triple jump (Marist vs. Chapel Hill vs. Woodward) and pole vault (Marist vs. Woodward). Where it gets dangerous for other teams is that Chapel Hill has two throwers in the discus and one in the shot put in which all are projected to score.
Miriam Waters of Woodward (photo by Daniel McCauley)
4A Girls Sprints: Miriam Waters (Woodward) is projected to win the 100/200 double. Other top sprinters include Camryn Mathis (100/200) of Henry County, Kiana Banks (200/400) of Spalding, Rachel Gearing(400) of White County, and Ilene Soleyn (400/800) of Chapel Hill.
Josie Wirtz of Marist (photo by Daniel McCauley)
Nicole Pachuta of Oconee County
4A Girls Distance: Marist should be cleaning house in the distance events, but are their points secure? We will see.. Nicole Pachuta of Oconee County (800/1600) and Josie Wirtz (1600/3200) are your stars. Unfortunately they only meet in one event, but it's sure to be an exciting one. Other girls to watch are Kathleen Shellman (3200) of Marist, Kathleen Maley (1600) of Marist, Caroline McArthur (1600/3200) of Oconee County, Morgen Vaden (1600/3200) of St. Pius, and Hannah Miniutti (1600/3200) of Blessed Trinity.
Kayla Alexander of Chapel Hill
4A Girls Hurdles: Kayla Alexander (100/300) of Chapel Hill is a stud and should score in both hurdle races. Chastity Pickett (100/300) of Westover should give her two great races though. Others to watch are Nysheria Buddy (Baldwin), Lisa Osondu (Luella), Dymond Bell (Spalding), and Lily Porter (St. Pius X)
Rachel Gearing of White County
4A: Girls Field: Lots of talented athletes here as it might take 18 feet to score in the long jump and 38 feet to score in the shot put. Big scorers should be Janae Profit (shot put and discus) of St. Pius, Rachel Gearing (LJ and TJ), the Woodward pole vaulters (Potts and Braselton), Olivia Moore (Pole Vault), and London Shaw (Cartersville)
Marist Boys were the 2017 Champs (photo by Daniel McCauley)
4A Boys Team: This could be an even tighter team race than the girls as St. Pius X is projected to win by a narrow 3 point margin over Chapel Hill with Jefferson lurking only 15 points behind. Other traditional powers Marist, Sandy Creek, North Oconee and Woodward appear to be fighting for the final podium spot. At the top though, both Chapel Hill and St. Pius X boast well-balanced squads and will meet head-to-head in ELEVEN events in Rome. If we ever needed evidence that anything can happen, this is it. To try and make a run, Jefferson is heavily reliant on pole vault and distance while Marist looks to score big in distance and high jump. Sandy Creek and Woodward look to apply pressure in the sprints and jumps, and North Oconee's balanced squad can score big in sprints, distance, and throws.
Freddie Allen III of Chapel Hill
4A Events to Watch: Get your popcorn ready because St. Pius X and Chapel Hill square off in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m, 110h, 300h, 4x100m, long jump, discus, AND shot put. The main attractions will feature Matthew Harris (SPX) vs. Freddy Allen III (Chapel Hill) in the 4x100, 100h, 300h, and long jump AND Tanner Duffin (SPX) vs. Jermaine Anderson (Chapel Hill) in both throws. As exciting as this is, Jefferson can spoil the party with two pole vaulters (Pius and Chapel Hill have zero) and Clay Pender in the 800/1600m double where he's projected to beat both Rowan Wiley (SPX) and Hunter Polston (Chapel Hill) in both events.
Brian Brown of North Clayton
4A Boys Sprints: The keynote event of the entire boys' championship falls on the boys' 200m dash, where the top 8 qualifiers are all separated by 0.07 seconds! Athletes to watch across individual events include Brian Brown (North Clayton, 100/200), Mika Fick (North Oconee 200/400), Will Stone (West Laurens 200/400), Jared Williams (St. Pius X 200/400), Nicholas Toomer (Sandy Creek 400), and Mahmoud Ameen (Henry County 100)
Clay Pender of Jefferson
Knox Pittman of Marist
4A Boys Distance: As usual, traditional power Marist is slated to dominate; however, we do have some potential spoilers. Athletes to watch in these events include Leif Anderson (Marist 1600/3200), Clay Pender (800/1600), Jonathan Myrthil (Northside Columbus 800/1600), Wesley John (Oconee County 800/1600), Alex Thomas (North Oconee 800/1600), Rowan Wiley (800, 1600), David Reteneller (Marist 800/1600), and Harrison Morris (Oconee County 3200). We also can't forget about stud freshman Justin Wachtel (Mary Persons 1600/3200).
Latrell Murray of Luella
4A Boys Hurdles: The stud of the meet who is projected to sweep the hurdles is Latrell Murray of Luella. Others who hope to upset Murray include Matthew Harris of St. Pius X., Freddie Allen III of Chapel Hill, Eli Morris of Jefferson, and Joshua Browning of Salem who are all in both hurdle events.
Tanner Duffin of St Pius X
Jermaine Anderson of Chapel Hill
4A Boys Throws: As stated earlier, the throwing showdown between Duffin (St. Pius X) and Anderson (Chapel Hill) will be epic and could determine our team state champion. Both have thrown over 170' and 59' and appear to be well ahead of all other contenders. If either has an off day, it opens the door for other contenders like Kyle Poole of North Oconee.
4A Boys Jumps: Allen and Harris have the 1st and 3rd best Long jump PRs in the group, but don't count out guys like Marcus Cade of Thomson or Nicholas Toomer of Sandy Creek. Cade was great at sectionals in both the Long Jump and High Jump, while Toomer cruised through the other sectional in the Long and Triple and holds the top mark in 4A in the TJ this year by 2 feet. Sultan Simms of Woodward and Jason Burke of Jefferson will go toe to toe in the high jump where crazy things can happen with big team points on the line.
4A Boys Pole Vault: And last, but certainly not least, will be an epic battle in the pole vault. Interestingly, Jefferson has 3 of the top 6 vaulters in 4A (give that coach a raise!), but can only bring 2.. Headlining the event are Thomas Martin (Jefferson), Grant Briscoe (Northside), and Nick Bebko (Cartersville) who have all gone at least 13-7 this year. The vault could really turn things in Jefferson's favor as Tripp Bullock looks to compete for a top spot as well and score big points for Jefferson.