Meet Preview: Big Orange Relays
NOTE: WRITTEN BEFORE ENTRY DEADLINES TO ALLOW PRESS TIME. NOT ALL ATHLETES MENTIONED ARE GUARANTEED TO COMPETE. THIS IS SIMPLY OFF SEASON BEST TIMES.
My initial opening sentence was something cliché like "Well, Johnny, what a start to track season it's been! *insert Goofy "a-hyuck" here*". But it's already March, and by the time Friday and Saturday roll around, it'll be mid-March! While some impressive performances have already occurred, the colder and, more annoyingly, wetter weather have hampered some things. A chance of rain for this weekend persists, but temps should be in more of the 60 degree variety which should hopefully begin transitioning to some faster times.
The goal of this year's Big Orange Relays is to prove itself as the premier mid-March relay meet, and with the stack of teams set to compete, hopefully we're well on our way. ALL events are scored as relays, so 3 jumpers will combine their best attempts to score, etc. This meet will be competed in a two-day affair, so this meet preview will be split into those two days based on gender. Enough small-talk… let's get to "the slate"!
BOYS FRIDAY FIELD:
Men's events contested: High Jump, Shot Put, Long Jump
High Jump: Things kick off with the men's high jump which features a quartet of men who have already jumped 6-4 this season, including Jalen Battle (Lambert), Brandon Benton (Alexander), Bryce Fleetwood (Parkview), Tarris Bouie (Peachtree Ridge). Battle and Bouie are the two seniors in the group with the most experience, but rookie Bryce Fleetwood has all of two live jumps to his name. Top career entry thus far is Juan Cavazos of Gainesville with a PR or 6-7.
Shot Put: Dacula continues to bang out stud throwers, and this year's crop is no different. Adam Watkins leads the field in season best for both the shot and the discus. The Marietta duo of Marice Brown and Titan Bullock also feature in the top 10 for season bests, and with this being a relay meet, having a strong 2nd competitor is critical for team scoring. Watch out for current GA #5 Mason Robinson of Alexander, Makius Scott of Gainesville, and Kendall Campbell of Meadowcreek who have all thrown 46+ in their careers.
Long Jump: Alan Wright of Woodward currently leads the way in terms of season-best, but look out for Jordan Barrow of Arabia Mountain and Seth Robertson of Morgan County who both boast career bests of over 22-9.
BOYS FRIDAY RUNNING:
Running events contested: Shuttle Hurdle Relay, 4x1600m Relay, 800m SMR
Shuttle Hurdle Relay: Always a fun event to watch (and a complex event to host), the Shuttle Hurdle Relay should feature three strong hurdlers thus far this year including Quincy Bonner (Meadowcreek), Jevan Terry (Marietta), and Walker Hanley (Brookwood). Brookwood always has an army of hurdlers, and Marietta historically has a well-rounded track team, so this should be a pretty fun event to watch.
4x1600m Relay: IT'S BACK!
The Friday Night 4x1600m Relay.. Hyped to be the premier 4x1600m mid-March affair, multiple strong distance programs will feature in this including St. Pius X, Marietta, Brookwood, South Forsyth, Lambert, Alexander, Parkview, Lovett, and Bleckley County, among others. Individuals that should feature include Kamari Miller (Marietta), Jack Voss (St. Pius X), Tristan Autry (Parkview), the duo of Colin Chapman and Cooper Bocko (Lambert), Will Bray (Brookwood), and Mikias Mekonen (Lakeside-Dekalb). Many of these teams competed in the ATC 4xMile ahead of the Olympic Marathon Trials while others will be getting their first look at this relay. Either way, this looks to be a super competitive, super fun, and super deep field.
800m SMR: Capping off the evening will be the 1-1-2-4 (aka 800m) SMR. Leaders in the short sprints thus far appear to be Marietta and Parkview. Jaylin Johnson of Marietta has a 10.85 to his name while Leon Christian (Parkview) has also impressed in the short sprints thus far. The nature of this meet though forces teams to spread their talent apart, so much like the 4x1600m Relay, I assume most schools will load up the 800m SMR to end the evening and then have to make a choice as far as which relays to "load up" on Saturday.
BOYS SATURDAY FIELD:
Men's events contested: Pole Vault, Discus, Triple Jump
Pole Vault: The Lambert pair of Maximilian Proels and Jason Lu headline the team side of the vault. Other individual contenders include Eli Marshbank (St. Pius X), Ryan Conn (Peachtree Ridge), and Christian Houston (Woodward) who have all gone 12-6 or better this year.
Discus: 3 of the top 4 current Georgia discus throwers should feature here, and all should be competing in at least their second event of the weekend, including Adam Watkins (Dacula), Titan Bulock (Marietta), and Kendall Campbell (Meadowcreek). Cody Brown (Parkview) has a career best of 166-1 and should also contend for the dub.
Triple Jump: Two-time State runner-up Malik Thompson of Parkview headlines this field and will be followed closely by Joshua Holloway (Marietta), and Tevon Shuler (Dacula). It should be noted that all of these jumpers have leaped over 45 feet in their careers, and with the (hopefully) slightly warmer weather, perhaps we'll see some magic on Saturday.
BOYS SATURDAY RUNNING:
Boys Running Events contested: 1600m SMR, 4x100m, Throwers 4x100m, 4x800m, 4x200m, DMR, 4x400m
Sprints: In terms of the sprint relays, Marietta (8) is featured in the current Georgia top 10 in the 4x100m Relay while Tucker (6) and Alexander (7) are currently in the top 10 for the 4x400m Relay. As I said before, a lot is going to depend on how teams decide to stack their teams in the relays, so it's basically impossible to predict team performances except to say that we should look heavily for these 4 teams as well as Parkview to be near the front in the sprint relays. Individually, look for Leon Christian (Parkview) and Jaylin Johnson (Marietta), among many, many others to headline their teams.
Distance: Very similar to the sprints, the distance squads will have to split between the 4x800m and the Distance Medley Relay. While the 800m is widely seen as a long sprint, it's reasonable to assume that the sprinters will be spread way too thin to feature heavily in the 4x800m which means coaches will likely have to decide which of these two events to load up in following the previous night's 4x1600m.
OVERALL TEAM ANALYSIS: Marietta appears to be the team to beat as they have the most depth in the most variety of events. Parkview features heavily in the sprints, Lambert has some depth in the field and distance, and Alexander should be fairly well-rounded, too. Look for these teams to be chasing after Marietta.
GIRLS FRIDAY FIELD:
Women's field events contested: Pole Vault, Discus, Triple Jump
Pole Vault: Kicking things off for the ladies field events on Friday is the pole vault which features a multitude of athletes with 10-6 or better personal bests. Leading the way is Charlotte Hodge of St. Pius X with Parker Freeman of Brookwood in-tow. From a team perspective, the Woodward duo of Jackie Braselton and Molly Devinney offers their squad some depth in an event which, remember, combines the top 3 athletes for team scoring.
Discus: Egypt Jackson of Woodward leads the way with a career best of 123 feet. Parkview's Kyla Turner is close behind at 116-5. Madison Kelly (Brookwood) and Tianna Adams (Morgan County) add talent to this event as both have career bests over 110 feet.
Triple Jump: Possibly the deepest field event featured at the Big Orange Jungle features 8 ladies who have jumped over 35 feet this season. This season, Morgan Bentley of Brookwood leads the way with a myriad of athletes close behind including Alaye Barnum and Carson Moore (Parkview), Kristina Sims (Marietta), Shynique McGee (Tri Cities), Peyton Funderburk (Woodward), and the Alexander pair of Taviana Williams and Natalie Brown. Adding depth to the event is Savannah Simms of Woodward with a career best 37-9 and Ariah Jeffers of Gainesville with a 35-7.
GIRLS FRIDAY RUNNING:
Running events contested: Shuttle Hurdle Relay, 4x1600m Relay, 800m SMR
Shuttle Hurdle Relay: The always hurdle-heavy Lady Broncos of Brookwood emerge as favorites in this event led by Nia Scott. Olivia Powell (Woodward) and Trinity Marshall (Peachtree Ridge) have also run impressively this season. Like with all relays though, it'll take more than one front runner to score big.
4x1600m Relay: Similar to the guys, the field looks loaded for this event which, again, looks to be the feature mid-March 4x1600. It should be a strong battle between South Forsyth and St. Pius X at the top. Other teams lurking at/near the top include Marietta, Brookwood, Lovett, Parkview, Lambert, and North Gwinnett. Individually, Madelynn Cadeau of South Forsyth has already broken 5:00 this season. Teammate Sophia Baker adds depth to a team which will be tasked with handling St. Pius X led by Hannah Schemel and Mary Brady. Marietta could bounce back strongly with strong runs from Betsy Gordon and June Mwaniki. Many of these teams will be racing the same stack they raced at the Atlanta Relays while others will make their sole 4x1600m appearance of the season.
800m SMR: Chamblee and Marietta have already shown strength in the short sprints this year.
Chamblee features Jordyn Parker who could lead her squad to victory in the sole sprint event of the evening. As with the guys, it'll be a question of how these teams load up on Saturday which will determine final team rankings. Alexander (Jazzmin Taylor), Parkview (Carson Moore), and Pebblebrook (Jessica James) could also be dangerous squads in this event led by their studs.
GIRLS SATURDAY FIELD:
Women's field events contested: High Jump, Shot Put, Long Jump
High Jump: Multi-event talent Jazzmin Taylor leads the field on the high jump side of things with a myriad of ladies mere inches away including Sierra Harrison (North Gwinnett), Mya Swaby (Brookwood), and Riley Johnson (Arabia Mountain). 4 other ladies in the field have jumped at least 5-0 in their careers which adds some depth to this event.
Shot Put: Ali Foxx-Rome of Alexander leads the field with a throw of 40-7 thus far this season. Rivals Kyla Turner (Parkview) and Madison Kelly (Brookwood) are separated by 1.5 inches at career bests of 35-0.5 and 34-11 respectively. Egypt Jackson (Woodward) and Tianna Adams (Morgan County) follow closely behind.
Long Jump: The jumps on the girls' side of this meet are downright nasty. Six girls in the field have jumped 17 feet or better in their careers, headlined by Skye Gross at a career best 19-4.5. Samaria Allen at 18-3 is no slouch, and Trinity Sumlin (17-5.5), Morgan Bentley (17-4), Mia Gant (17-4), and Candace Taylor (17-0) all will look to make this event extremely competitive.
GIRLS SATURDAY RUNNING:
Running Events Contested: 1600m SMR, 4x100m, Throwers 4x100m, 4x800m, 4x200m, DMR, 4x400m
SPRINTS: It'll be a game of "Which event do we stack?" as teams with some stud talent but not a ton of depth may load up 1-2 events while others with perhaps a more balanced attack will look to do just that. Woodward's sub-50 4x100m relay stands out as does their projected 4:26 in the 1600m SMR. Chamblee looks strong with a low 50 4x100m mark already this season, and both Marietta and Tucker have several studs. Either way, look for Jordyn Parker (Chamblee), Mckenzie Waller (Marietta), Jessica James (Pebblebrook), Kyla Johnson (Paulding), Nia Hicks (Peachtree Ridge), and Cerenity Saise (Pebblebrook) to feature heavily in the sprints Saturday.
DISTANCE: What will be left in the tank following the previous night's 4x1600m? Teams will have to decide how to split up their talent between the 4x800m and the Distance Medley Relay. These events won't necessarily be contested solely by distance kids either as someone like Jazzmin Taylor (Alexander) has great range. Sprint-heavy schools could elect to move some sprinters up, or some schools could simply load up one event and forego the other.
OVERALL TEAM ANALYSIS: Woodward and Chamblee look pretty strong in the sprints and/or field, South Forsyth, Marietta, and Alexander have some depth across a multitude of events, and several other schools like Parkview, St. Pius X, and Brookwood have talent in an assortment of places which could make for an interesting team race by the end of business Saturday.
The "relay" scoring system makes depth critical for both the guys and girls. Regardless, make your way out to the Big Orange Jungle this Friday and Saturday for what looks to be the greatest installment of the Big Orange Relays ever!