Week of 2/14- 2/19 Unsung Heroes : A New Hope

Malia Campbell, the girls sprints winner, running the 400m at Westlake

Unsung Heroes Week 1: A New Hope

There's nothing quite like the start of a new track season. It's cold, usually rainy, and everyone feels full of potential. Between the end of January and the middle of May, some amazing things can happen that nobody can predict. Of course, that does not stop us here at MileSplit from trying to predict outcomes anyway, with our "Top Returners" articles publicizing the athletes to beat in each event. One important marker that these rankings cannot foresee is the impact of new athletes to a track team, especially freshmen. Each year, a select group freshman athletes burst onto the scene ready to compete, which can have incredible consequences for the team scores. A few good freshmen in some key events can turn a team from an also-ran into a contender! With that in mind, this week we highlight some of the best freshman boys and girls from this week's batch of races, which marked the first time that many schools competed this season. Here's to all the untapped potential that the beginning of the season holds, and to the hope that all will reach their potentials!

"Unsung Heroes" recognizes some great individual performances from this past week across the state of Georgia that might have flown under the radar or gone underappreciated. One "winner" or "honorable mention" is selected from each of three categories (sprints/hurdles, distance, and field events) for both boys and girls. Enjoy!

Girls Winners


Malia Campbell, Landmark Christian

26.15 in 200m at Westlake & BSN Sports Early Bird, 5th

59.71 in 400m at Westlake & BSN Sports Early Bird, 4th

Although this week's meet at Westlake was relatively small, it saw some very fast competition. Landmark Christian might not have expected to have some of the quickest sprinters in the meet for the 200 and 400, but they got not one but two outstanding performances from freshmen. Taylor Gullate ran incredibly well in her first high school race, finishing comfortably atop the field in both events and earning one of the "Performer of the Week" nods. Not to be overlooked, however, is Malia Campbell, who gives Landmark an amazing sprinting duo of freshmen. Campbell put down a 26-second 200 and a sub-60 400 to earn a top 5 place in both events against great competition. She scored a personal best time in the 200, ahead of all of her times from a 7th place finish in Middle School State last season. Campbell also proved that she has some unbelievable range, as she was a top 5 runner for second-place Landmark at XC state in the fall. Looking forward to seeing this athlete compete in both the spring and the fall for years to come!  


Talia Brown, Hillgrove

12:40.02 in 3200m at Hillgrove JV Meet #1, 1st

This week, Brown continued a trend of running very quick times that began in cross country season in the fall. After a season in which she ran below 21:30 at the state meet for a talented Hillgrove squad, she laced up her spikes for track season and has not disappointed in the slightest. At the Hillgrove JV Meet, Brown beat the competition by over 10 seconds, which shattered her last season's best in the 3200 by more than two minutes! She also had set very quick PR's in the 800 and 1600 at Parkview Distance Kickoff just a week prior. Brown should be counted among the contenders for a state meet berth in all three distance events if she keeps improving at this rate.


Kalayah Wesley, Dutchtown

15' 11.0" in Long Jump at Showdown at B-Town, 1st

15' 5.5" in Long Jump at Union Grove Early Bird All-Comers, 9th

It has been a busy week for Wesley! On Wednesday, she experienced her first week of high school track racing, jumping a very impressive 15 feet 11 inches for the victory at the Showdown at B-Town hosted by Banneker. Just three days later, the Dutchtown freshman traveled to Union Grove to match up against some stellar competition and proved her first meet was no fluke, jumping 15' 5.5" to take 9th place. She also competed in the 100 in both meets. One point to note is that Wesley jumped in the weakest of the three flights in the Union Grove meet, which could mean that she will jump even further as the season progresses and she earns better placement seeds. 

Boys Winners


Dalen Penson, Sandy Creek

45.40 in 300h at Union Grove Early Bird All-Comers, 5th

16.66 in 110h at Union Grove Early Bird All-Comers, 6th

38-9 in Triple Jump at Union Grove Early Bird All-Comers, 8th

Penson looks like he could be a rising star both in hurdles and in jumps in the near future. On a Sandy Creek squad with plenty of sprinting talent, the Patriots freshman made his mark quickly with some fast hurdling times in both the 300- and 110-meter hurdle races. Running in the first heat for the 110-meter hurdles, Penson bested everyone in his heat by a margin of 3.5 seconds. He easily won his second heat by over 6 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles as well. Along with senior Demarco Thompson, Sandy Creek looks to rack up points in the hurdles all season long, especially once Penson levels up his competition. 


Collin Maher, Mount Vernon

2:05.7 in 800m at 9th Annual Marietta Distance Carnival w/ Steeplechase, 18th

53.47 in 400m at Mount Paran Christian Classic, 2nd

It's usually difficult for male freshman distance runners to stand out, since building up the strength and endurance to run fast track races can take years to accomplish. This week, Maher demonstrated that he already has both the speed and the endurance to run well in two events at a high level. Running against good private school competition at the Mount Paran Christian Classic, Maher blazed a 53.47-second 400, placing him first in his heat and second overall in the race. Just two days later, Maher took the track for the 800 in Marietta and ran his first outdoor 800 in 2:05.7, slotting in as the first freshman to finish at this loaded distance-centric meet (there were 18 heats in the boys 800!). Much like Campbell above, Maher has unusual range at a young age, with quick PRs in events from the 200 to the 5000 in cross country. He could definitely make some noise in the mid-distance events at the 1A Private state meet.


Hayden Baydendyck, Loganville

9' 6" in Pole Vault at Parkview Invitational, 4th

2:25.36 in 800m at Parkview Invitational, 6th

The pole vault has been getting more popular in recent years and Baydendyck looks like he might be one of the best young pole vaulters in the state. In his first pole vault competition (on MileSplit), he cleared a height of 9 feet and 6 inches. That's certainly a high bar to set for himself, but Baydendyck will look to go even higher as the season progresses. He also has started off quite well in the distance events as well; at the same meet as his pole vault, he ran his first-ever 800 and finished in 2:25. If his first meet is any indication, Baydendyck could be battling to score important points at the state meet in the pole vault by the end of the season.