2018 Blast from the Past
Foreword: As I've mentioned at the beginning of basically every article I've written this school year, let us be thankful that we have made it to this point. We all remember what happened 14 months ago, and we all remember the emotional toll it took on us to have to break the news to our kids that their seasons (and in some cases, careers) were over. Fast forward to now, and we're just hours away from kicking off the 2021 edition of the State Championships.
The way I'll handle this is to give an event-by-event breakdown (in order of event FINALS) and make note of contending teams/highlight individual favorites. Hopefully, this article will educate everyone from the most casual of fans to the most analytical of coaches so that, come the State Championships at McEachern, everyone who will have read this article will have a great idea of the individual and team threat
Even by Event Previews (again - in order of contested FINALS)
Janae Profit of Dunwoody is a threat to sweep the throws.
Triple Jump: Field events begin Thursday with what could be a pretty solid duel among the 2 favorites in the Triple Jump. Contenders Jayda Lowe of host McEachern and Kaylan McConnehead of Lowndes have both eclipsed 38 feet this season with McConnehead doing so at Sectionals. The jumps as previously stated are huge swing events as one big jump can really affect the rest of the field. Three more ladies have surpassed 37 feet so far this season, so if either of the aforementioned 2 should not reach their peeks, then the likes of Jordyn Ash of Newton and Cerenity Daise and Jessica James of Pebblebrook could play spoiler. Either way, this will be a pretty intense event as a further 7 ladies have gone over 36 feet this season.
Team Implications: Host McEachern, whom I peg as a podium threat, has 2 ladies projected to score big points here including of course the on-paper favorite in Lowe. Teammate Jayla Brown could make this an even bigger point swing for the host school. Marietta, always lurking in the shadows, features Kennedy Colbert who could score a few points for the Lady Blue Devils to help put them into the podium picture.
Rachel Valentine of Walton
Pole Vault: Another duel could headline this event as we have 2 girls who have cleared 12 feet or better in Rachel Valentine of Walton (12-6) and Riley Jones of South Forsyth. Tara Parks of Cherokee and Silvana Lopez-Ramirez of West Forsyth has cleared 11 feet to give this event a little bit of depth. A further 7 ladies have all cleared 10 feet with a total of 15 out of 16 ladies clearing 9-6. It is certainly quite crowded in the 'mid card' of this event which could, again, really make this interesting from a points' perspective. We all know how crazy the pole vault can be with jump-offs, tiebreakers, etc.
Team Implications: A big 10 spot from Rachel Valentine here would go a long way toward Walton securing a team championship. Hillgrove duo Jenna Rolen and Ryann Richards can help their team's cause out by moving up the leaderboard.
Long Jump: Once the dust settles from the first round of field events, we head into the second half of the morning starting with the long jump. Two ladies could really test each other's mettle in this contest as Skylar Harrelson of Cherokee (19-4.5) and Dallis Goodnight of Mill Creek (19-2.5) have both eclipsed a super-elite 19 feet this season. Two more leapers have found themselves over 18 feet this season in Zoe Adams of Marietta and Ryann Richards of Hillgrove. All but 1 lady in the field has jumped over 17 feet meaning that if there are any mistakes made or nerves issues, any number of ladies could find their way into not just scoring position but prime scoring position.
Team Implications: Hillgrove again features 2 ladies in the same event, both of whom can score big points. Marietta's Zoe Adams rates 3rd overall while Campbell's first sighting in Rachel Swain begins the journey for these ladies to contend for a top spot; watch for their names more later.
Discus: This event will be highlighted by Dunwoody's Janae Profit as she tries to ink herself in the history books as an all-time great. Her best toss of 159-8 is already 5 feet ahead of the State Meet record (source: GATFXCCA) and is at least the 4th best throw in the last 20 years in Georgia. I'd say that's pretty dang good. Kameryn Hannon of Grayson has a season-best 133-1. We've got one final thrower over 120 feet in Trinity Stephens of McEachern.
Team Implications: Dunwoody doesn't appear to be a huge team threat although if Profit wins both the discus and the shot put, she alone could flirt with the top 10 as we've seen in the past. The duo of Trinity Stephens and Haleigh Cephus are both rated to score in this event as the hosts, again, are podium threats. Marietta's Malaika Theophile and Alayna Abrams, both over 100 feet, would need big days to score but could poach a couple of points to help their squad.
Shot Put: Huge shocker coming… ready? Janae Profit is the favorite in the shot put. She enters with a 6 foot lead over her closest competitor and only inches off the current State Meet record of 47-3.5 (source: GATFXCCA) although she did throw over 48 feet back in November 'out of season'. Her closest competitors include Kali Terza of Etowah who's over 40 feet and then Trinity Stephens of McEachern and Mykhayla Carroll of Archer follow with chunks over 39 feet. There is then a slew of ladies over 36 feet to round out the projected scoring field.
Team Implications: Dunwoody should stamp their 20 total points here while McEachern should gain further ground on the field. Grayson has 2 throwers in Kameryn Hannon and Samantha Smith, and they could be a top 10 team if things swing in their favor. The same can be said for Parkview's ladies as they make their first mention here with Sussy Ngulefac featured in the event.
Tomisin Adenupe of Walton
High Jump: The Girls High Jump is just one big huge shoulder shrug. In each sectional, all girls who qualified jumped between 4-10 and 5-2. Two girls have cleared 5-6 at some point this season in Walton's Tomisin Adenupe and Newnan's Kaylen Madrey. After that, it is a huge list of girls who have gone between 5-0 and 5-4. It's a game of inches, and this contest will really be one to keep an eye on, especially from a team perspective.
Team Implications: Walton has one of the on-paper co-favorites in Adenupe which can really give these ladies a push toward gold when it's all said and done. Harrison projects as an outside podium threat, so if Chloe Brown can clear 5-2 and score, it gives her team some much-needed points. Here's our first Peachtree Ridge sighting in Nia Hicks as they project to also be a podium contender.
4x800m Final: Kicking the running side of things off for the ladies is the 4x800m Finals. Harrison's Lady Hoyas have the fastest time by far of the season at 9:33, nearly 10 seconds clear of the next closest Etowah at 9:42. Brookwood (9:43), Hillgrove (9:43), Marietta (9:44), and Walton (9:45) will try to keep it interesting, but it could be a race for second if Harrison fully loads it. Keep in mind though that, similar to the guys, there could be some strategic moves in place to conserve for other events. The only way to find out is to watch!
Team Implications: 4 of the top 5 teams in the 4x800m (Marietta being the lone exception) feature ladies who could also be racing 4 hours later in the 1600m final. My assumption is everyone will sell out in this 4x800m and see what they've got left in the 1600m, so keeping with that notion, Walton could put some big points on the board here to help separate themselves from the field. Keep in mind that Hillgrove is also sharply in the team conversation, so these 2 teams could do some critical damage to each other depending on how things shape up in this event.
Riley Perlakowski of Harrison (photo by Daniel McCauley)
1600m Final: Ending an exhilarating Day 1 of the Girls State Championships (remember that not only is the 4x800m this day but also all of the field events) is the 1600m final. How many of these ladies will be coming off the 4x800m a little under 4 hours earlier? This could shake some things up a bit, but let's just look at the stats. Riley Perlakowski of Harrison is good. We know this. She's (for now?) the only sub 5:00 runner in the field at 4:59.35. Joining her though are 8 other girls who have all logged between 5:08 and 5:13 at some point this season… meaning if Perlakowski falters, there is an army of girls in tow who will all be fighting for top 8 podium spots. These ladies include Makenna Calbert of Etowah, Sarah Burwell of Walton, Lexi Pavese of Cherokee, Lizzy Smith of Hillgrove, Allie Wardle of Brookwood, Ava Brooks of Hillgrove, Haley Primm of Parkview, and Claire Shelton of Dunwoody
Team Implications: Team favorite Walton has a low stick in this field in seasoned veteran Sarah Burwell who has as good a shot as any for a top 2-3 finish. Podium threat Hillgrove has a dynamic duo in Smith and Brooks who could gain some ground on Walton if one of them pushes past Burwell.
Sarah Burwell of Walton
3200m Final: The only event featuring the ladies on Friday night will be a special one for sure. This 3200m does not have a hands-down favorite, and the top 3 seeds all slugged it out in their region meet a few weeks ago. Walton's Sarah Burwell (10:59.61) and Hillgrove's Ava Brooks (11:00.24) and Lizzy Smith (11:02.83) all ran those times at region with Marietta's Macie Pfeuffer at 11:09 claiming the 4th spot. Other regions were either more relaxed or simply not as competitive, so there could still be a whole lot of time on the table. Carmel Yonas of South Forsyth, Haley Primm of Parkview, Makenna Calbert of Etowah, and Emily Guy of Mill Creek all have huge shots to score big in this event.
Team Implications: Walton and Hillgrove have huge opportunities here to set the standard heading into finals on Saturday. If either of Brooks or Smith from Hillgrove can take down Burwell, we see a huge point swing in Hillgrove's favor. If any/all of those 3 girls falter to other ladies who are following closely, this could be an event where we just throw the stats sheet up in the air and say the heck with it. 11 girls are all within 30 seconds of each other with varying degrees of competition required to get to this point. When the dust settles, catch your breath, go to sleep (again -- really? Good luck…), and get ready for an exciting finals day on Saturday.
Saturday Running Finals:
4x100m: Here's where the points situation will really begin to take shape. We haven't mentioned much about Campbell and Peachtree Ridge yet. The points situation on the ladies' side appears to be quite different from the men's.. We have battle of field events & distance heavy squads taking on heavy sprints squads. Exciting stuff! Peachtree Ridge's squad has raced around the track in 46.52 seconds which they did in dominant fashion to win their Sectional. Not to be easily outdone are the ladies of Campbell who have a 46.85 to their name that they did back in March. There is then a trio of teams who all finished within .08 of each other at their Sectional Meet in Hillgrove (47.00), Pebblebrook (47.07), and Walton (47.08) -- all defeating previously mentioned Campbell head to head.
Team Implications: The balanced Walton squad will try to stay ahead of the star-studded Campbell ladies while Hillgrove, an on-paper surefire podium threat, is also expected to score big points in this event. Pebblebrook can't be ignored either as they're projected to finish in the top 10. They're capable of winning this event too which would turn things around quite a bit. This is another major swing event, and it kicks off our Saturday action.
Mekenze Kelley of Campbell
400m: 58.49 is what it took to escape the Cobb/Fulton Sectional, and that's just nasty. Campbell's Mekenze Kelley leads all ladies in 7A with a 54.73. Walton makes another appearance with Sectionals champion Amara Onyeukwu who's run 55.17. We then have two freshmen sensations who have both broken 47 seconds in Brookwood's Serena Tate and McEachern's Yasmine Williams which shows that the future is pretty dang bright for this event in Georgia. Could it take a sub 58 to make the finals?
Team Implications: More big points can be won here by both Walton and Campbell who are heavily featured here. Walton has a second qualifier in Morgan Pruitt who, if she can make the finals, gives them 2 bullets in the gun to score some big points for the championship favorites. McEachern can also get some momentum going if Williams can provide some spark. We also can't ignore Brookwood who can begin chipping away at a top 10 finish with Tate.
Tamia Fuller of Peachtree Ridge
100m: Similar story to the guys here. How many of these ladies will have just sold out on the relay to then have to turn around and blitz their way down the track again? One who I feel sure fits this description is Tamiia Fuller of Peachtree Ridge who leads all 7A ladies with a season-best 11.50. The next 2 seeds are both named McKenzie… McKenzie Walker of Marietta (11.97) and McKenzie Calloway of Newton (12.02). A multitude of ladies follow who have all run 12-low at varying points this season
Team Implications: How these ladies respond from the 4x100m will be telling. If they're fresh, it could give them a nice advantage over their fatigued counterparts. This could be another huge moment for Peachtree Ridge as Fuller could be joined by teammate Mariah Brooks in the finals to gain some ground on other teams who aren't featured in this event. Hillgrove did have 2 ladies make it through in Ryan Davis and Anisa Williams, and while they don't project to score if they do, things could get interesting as they work on a likely gap to Walton and Campbell.
100m Hurdles: The spread in this event seems wider than normal as a full 3 seconds separate the top seed from the 16th seed, but the top 7 are all pretty close together. Zionn Rice of Campbell does enter as the heavy favorite with a 14.23. Kara Stewart of McEachern and Camryn King of Archer are both within about 0.5 seconds. After that, it's a cluster of Discovery's Ron-Niah Wright (14.99), Parkview's Carson Moore (14.99), Brookwood's Veajah Hylton (15.01), and Peachtree Ridge's Trinity Marshall (15.06). Crazy things happen in the hurdles, and one misstep could turn these projections on its head and really scramble up the team scoring. As it stands though, Campbell and McEachern can do heavy damage here.
Team Implications: Where Campbell lacks in-depth, they make up for in stud power. Another 10 spot here could really put the pressure on Walton as they're running out of opportunities. Peachtree Ridge and McEachern are both vying for podium spots, and this is definitely an event to keep an eye on when refreshing your phone to check updated points standings.
800m: Next on tap could be another one of those races where the stud is way out front and it's a battle for runner-up honors. This is a loaded field, but it must be noted here that Region 3 was insanely hard. The 5th fastest 800m runner in 7A, Kate Curtis of Harrison, just happened to also be the 5th fastest 800m runner in her own region. That's right…a 2:16 runner is at home. Just felt like she needed some recognition. Anyway. Leading the way here is Riley Perlakowski of Harrison whose 2:09 is head and shoulders above the rest. Following her though is a tightly contested pack all between 2:15 and sub 2:20. Kennedy Morris of Marietta (2:15.28), Samantha McGarity of Harrison (2:15.84), Elizabeth Ellis of Hillgrove (2:15.96), Taylor Watkins of Discovery (2:18.91), Allie Wardle of Brookwood (2:19.68), and Jaimie Chen of Parkview (2:19.86) are all under 2:20 which will make this event a lot of fun to watch. #8 on paper and #12 on paper are separated by a second and a half, so making the finals is no easy task here.
Team Implications: This is a situation where if Harrison is going to make a charge at the podium, they can really make some noise here as they feature the top 2 seeds. Marietta can upset some points with a strong showing from Morris. Brookwood and Parkview could pick up some points here, and if Elizabeth Ellis of Hillgrove can score big in the finals, it's another huge push for Hillgrove into the top 4 overall.
200m: Here's another huge opportunity for Tamiia Fuller of Peachtree Ridge to cement not just her legacy as a 100/200 champion but also propel The Ridge to The Podium. Several familiar faces won't make this easy for her as Mekenze Kelley of Campbell, Serena Tate of Brookwood, and Amara Onyeukwu of Walton also are projected to score big points here. We could see dang near a rematch for the 100m which is always fun. Who will have the most left in the legs? How many of these ladies will have to turn around and beat their legs into submission in the 4x400m just around the corner?
Team Implications: Walton's title hopes could be in the balance here as they'll be battling Campbell in this event with only 2 remaining. If Kelley can upset Fuller, it's a huge point swing. Or, if Onyeukwu scores higher than projected, we see it go in the other direction. This could come down to everyone's favorite… the 4x400m.
300m Hurdles: We can't have the 4x400m without the 300 Hurdles! This should be very competitive upfront as we have Ron-Niah Wright of Discovery favored to win with a season-best 44.22. Aliyah Irving of the always competitive Brookwood hurdle crew is favored for second while Zionn Rice of Campbell rounds out the top 3 who have all broken 45 seconds. We have 2 more Brookwood hurdlers in Kylin Beard and Veajah Hylton giving the lady Broncos 3 potential scorers in the State Championships which deserves an 'ata boy to Coach Joe Carter. Brittany Miller of Etowah has also gone 46.07 this season adding some strong depth to an event that features 7 ladies all under 47 seconds.
Team Implications: Here's a great opportunity for McEachern and Campbell to gain some ground on Walton heading into the 4x400m. Brookwood's trio could really spark their efforts to emerge into the top 10. Marietta does have a qualifier in Karolina Colon, so if she can find her way in the finals and steal a point or 2, it could give Marietta the slight boost they need
4x400m: Everyone's favorite "send them home happy" main event -- the 4x400m. All the team favorites except for Hillgrove will feature a team here. Campbell's tradition of having strong 4x400m relay squads continues this year with a State leading 3:51.22. Peachtree Ridge isn't far off in 3:54.74. 4 more squads have sub 4:00 to their names including Marietta (3:54.85), Walton (3:55.72), Pebblebrook (3:57.33), and Brookwood (3:57.59). McEachern also qualified in 4:01.98. What's always interesting here is who has what left in the tank. Everyone's tired. Many of these kids have competed in 1, 2, or 3 other events leading up to this -- many with qualifying races to boot. Who can will and power their way across to help their team?
Team Implications: Walton can secure their State Championship with a big run here. Campbell can play upset with a big run here. Peachtree Ridge can play upset with a big run here. Marietta can play upset with a big run here. Harrison, while not slated to score, could sneak in and get some last-minute points to help their cause. Regardless -- if you're a betting man/woman, I'd bet that we see some teams shift around following the 4x400m.
Championship Weekend is upon us!!! I can't wait to see these kids compete. I'll see everyone at McEachern!