Distance Races Highlight Wingfoot Night of Champions Races

HS Boys Mile Run

(all photos by Alex Brust)

The 2021 Wingfoot Night of Champions may have been the best meet of all time in the short series which began in 2016. Atlanta Track Club did a great job of putting on and managing the meet, and Olympic great gold medalist Gail Devers was fantastic engaging the fans and interviewing the top 3 athletes after each race. MileSplit USA did a nice job with the video and Livestream, and MileSplit Georgia was onsite shooting photos, video of field events, and video of the top 3 athletes with Gail Devers. The best races of the night were the distance races as five of them were filled with drama and races coming down to the last few meters before the finish line. 

Colin O'Rielly gives Wachtel a wake-up call before makes his 'mad dash' in pursuit of Miller.

The race of the night was the boys Wingfoot mile... and it was quite a spectacle and the race video a must-watch. It was a loaded field, the only thing that could have been better as if Zack Truitt (who was running the 'Dream Mile at Adidas Boston Games) and Sully Shelton (competing in the 800m race earlier) would have been in the line-up. Wachtel and Logan Ray led lap one, but Kamari Miller took over beginning lap 2 after splitting 1:01.20. Wachtel slipped behind Miller and drafted him on lap 2 but Miller began to separate just before splitting a 2:04.30 

Justin was red-lining it crossing the tape pushing his engine to the max.

As Miller pulled away, Colin O'Rielly of Marist began to creep up on Wachtel and hung around a while with the chase group nearly 30m back. Miller had a fast 3rd lap with a negative split of 1:01.70 and seemed fully in control of the race. Miller had a 25-meter lead with 250m to go and Wachtel suddenly dropped the hammer... and began to close the gap, little by little, but a lot in the final curve. Justin caught and passed him with 75m left in the race and sprinted in clocking a 4:08.29. Miller crossed second at 4:09.17, McNally 3rd at 4:15.02, and Colin O'Rielly 4th at 4:15.47.

HS boys Victory Stand: Kamari Miller, Justin Wachtel and Eoin McNally

Justin Wachtel commented post-race, " couldn't be more thankful to pull off a win against a very strong field. Going into it, I knew I had to just put myself in the race and get out of my own way. The race didn't necessarily go to plan after I struggled later into the race. Over the last 600m, I knew I couldn't give up and let the race go to waste since this very easily could have been my last mile as a high schooler, and I wanted to cross the line knowing deep-down I gave it all I had.  Running 4:08 at that moment meant a lot more than just a 4:08 mile to me. This season has been full of challenges, and I couldn't take anything for granted." 

HS Girls Mile Run

Grace Von Bieberstein of St. Pius X paved the road early for teammate Schemmel.

This race was pegged as another showdown between Hannah Miniutti of Blessed trinity against Hannah Schemmel as well as Mary Brady from St. Pius X. But, it was not to be as Miniutti pulled withdrew from the race to give her good friend Katie Hamfelt (who was #17) the chance to race,  and it turned out well as Katie ran a PR, coming in 6th place at 5:08. 

Schemmel stares down the finish area with 80m to go.

It seems Grace Von Bieberstien (7) led after lap 1 splitting a 1:15.20 with Schemmel and a pack of 6 just behind. Six girls broke off into a 'lead pack' during lap 2 with a gap of 10m on the chase pack behind them. Schemmel assumed the lead beginning lap 3 and had a 15-meter lead heading into the gun lap with Sophie Boice, Brady, and Katherine Law in a group of 3.

HS Girls Victory Stand was a happy place for these 3: Sophie Boice, Hannah Schemmel, and Mary Brady

Schemmel maintained her gap on the final lap, but Pius teammate Brady drew within 10m... Schemmel regrouped, found her stride again pulling away finishing at 4:54.11. Boice of Pope mounted a late charge passing Brady just before line placing second at 4:56.68 with Brady .21 back at 4:56.89. Law from Jefferson claimed 4th going 4:59.12

Hannah Schemmel commented after the meet, "The Wingfoot Night of Champions was such a fun meet. Atlanta Track Club hosted a very exciting night for both athletes and spectators. I had done the Wingfoot Mile in eighth grade and was looking forward to running again this year. I enjoyed having two of my teammates in the race, Mary Brady and Grace Von Biberstein. I have also gotten to know several of the other runners at various meets over the season, and it was truly a blessing to race with all of them at Wingfoot.

It was a nice change to run the mile as we normally compete in the 1600m during the season. There was a great field of runners, so I knew the competition would be tough. As the gun went off, a handful of us quickly formed a pack and stayed together for the first part of the race. I decided to pick up the pace going into the final 800 because I was feeling really good. I pushed the pace as hard as I could and just wanted to see what I could do. Overall, I was happy with my time and grateful for the opportunity to run in this race."

HS Boys 800

It was an all-out sprint to the finish of the 800m race

This was a barnburner of a race containing many GHSA state champs including Harrison teammates Sully Shelton, 7A 800m champ, Parker Buchheit, 3A champ Matthew Fernando, Alex Guidry of Alexander, and 'club runner' Alec Jackson of Eagle's Landing Athletic Club. Alec Jackson took the lead 200m into the race with Shelton right behind him. Shelton slipped inside 25m before the end of lap 1 splitting a 55.20.

800m boys Victory Stad: Alec Jackson, Matthew Fernando, and Sully Shelton

Westminster's Fernando moved into third place on the backstretch with Marcus Guidry going with him. Meanwhile, five meters ahead Shelton was trying to surge, but Jackson wasn't dropping back hanging tough, surely waiting to pounce, and made his move with 200m to go, passing Shelton, beginning to accelerate, but neither could know that behind them Fernando was busy mounting a final charge of his own, swinging wide at the curve's end making it a dead heat with 80m left. It was pure guts and speed race till the finish, and Fernando's footspeed was the difference the final 20m taking the win at 1:52.24, with Jackson 2nd in 1:52.77, Shelton third at 1:52.99 with Buchheit getting back in the picture late taking 4th going 1:54.19  Fernando added, "Race felt very good. I was relaxed with like 200 to go and didn't panic with the guys in front. I started to accelerate with 120 to go and went around to lane 2 and then just keep on going past them to the finish. The race was also pretty dead even splits for me. 56, 56."

HS Girls 800

Riley Perlakowski fights to hold off a charge by Gabriella Grissom late.

The battle for the HS girls 800m race was no less exciting than the boys as five state champions were in heat 2 to determine a champion. Alexa Grissom of Sandy Creek made a quick move at the break taking the lead but by the turn, Riley Perlalkowski of Harrison went ahead and assumed the front position choosing to lead instead of draft. Johna Grisik of Marist came off the turn and slid up to 2nd down the home stretch as Perlakowski split a 1:00.80, Grissom 3rd, and Allison Ollendick-Smith of Athens Academy 4th.

HS Girls 800 Victory Stand: Riley Perlakowski, Gabriella Grissom, Isis Symone-Grant.

Beginning at the curve Perlalkowski tried to put the race away early and bolted ahead into a 15m lead halfway across the backstretch, but Grissom decided to go after her and make it a race and began to slowly chip away and thru the back turn was 3m behind as Perlalkowski gamely tried to hold her off down the homestretch. Grissom finally managed to pass with 10 left crossing the line at 2:07.61 for the win. Perlalkowski went 2:07.93. There was a huge scrap coming towards the finish for 3rd as Isis Symone-Grant 2:10.25, Grisik 4th- 2:11.13, Cara Joyce 5th- 2:11.64

HS Boys 3200

Five guys contend for the lead early in the HS boys 3200m

Many PRs were achieved in the high school boys' 3200m race. It was very hot 2 hours earlier (up to 88 degrees) but by 7:30 temps had become more comfortable with the sun dropping behind some trees and clouds as evidenced by the shadows on the track. Andrew Jones was the favorite coming in, but many were ready to leave it all out on the track in their final race as a high school athlete. Lap 1 was split at 1:08, which left one to ponder when the pace would begin to quicken and who would move to the lead and control it. Luke Gaddis of Chestatee took the reigns on lap 2 and led the boys thru at 2:14.30. By the 1/2 way point, six runners had broken away with a 20-meter gap separating the next group, the race had now began as they split the 1600m at 4:29.8 with Jones of North Hall back in the lead.

Andrew Jones put it all together in the 3200 Saturday clocking a 9:01.45, Denmark's Ashley went 9:03.97

By the end of lap 5, Edward Blaha of Pace Academy had moved into 3rd behind Jones, and Ethan Ashley and Collin Jones from Carrollton was in close contact behind Blaha. These 4 as if on cue picked up the pace and began to pull away with Gaddis fading. With 2 laps remaining, Andrew Jones was at 6:50.7 and the runners were within 2-3m of each other. Jones began lap 8 at 7:58.10 with Ashley and Blaha staying close and Collin Jones falling back. Jones and Ashley were in top gear on the backstretch but remained tight as Blaha began to fall off the torrid pace. But Andrew kept it together, maintained form, and never broke stride pulling away down the homestretch taking the win at 9:01.45. You have to hand it, Ashley, he was spent, and still kept it going thru the finish line for a huge PR of 9:03.37. Blaha regrouped and flew across the finish at 9:09.45, while Collin Jones held on for 4th place at 9:12.64. 

HS Boys 3200 Victory Stand: Ethan Ashley, Andrew Jones and Edward Blaha.

HS Girls 3200

The girls 3200m race wasn't a boring race, there was not as much drama happening upfront as the other races, none of the top 5 girls chose to run it (all opting for the 1600m), but little battles were going on all over the track. Lap 1 was very pedestrian as the entire field was in one big clump splitting a 1:28. Lap 2' was split at 2:45 as the pace now had begun to quicken. 

7A Girls Victory Stand: Eva Brooks, Sarah Burwell, and Grace Von Bieberstein.

Sarah Burwell and Clair Shelton were controlling the pace now and began to move away from the pack (which had spread out into a line now) Burwell retook the lead with 800m to go and began to turn it over on the backstretch and curve for a 10m lead, but Brooks passed a runner and was now back in second 15m behind Burwell on the gun lap. But Sarah put it in another gear on the backstretch and held form taking the win at 10:57.27  Brooks was runner=up at 11:02.37, Von Bieberstein 3rd in 11:07.36, and Claire Shelton 4th posting an 11:15.24