Unsung Heroes April 11-16: The Longest Meter

Jabbie finished 2nd in her heat of the 100m at McEachern on Saturday

Week of Apr 11 - Apr 16 Unsung Heroes: The Longest Meter

This week, region meets will begin, thus marking the end of the regular season and beginning of the postseason. Before jumping into the exciting races ahead, though, it's important to celebrate the accomplishments that have already been achieved this season. For most athletes, track and field is not about winning the state meet, but rather about being the best possible version of themselves. In that spirit, this week we honor athletes who have improved exceptionally this season. Many of these athletes have already succeeded tremendously this season, regardless of what happens in the postseason. However, many of them are also set up to shine in the bright lights as well-that's what happens when you become the best version of yourself!

"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 is selected from each of three categories (sprints/hurdles, distance, and field events) for both boys and girls. Enjoy!

Girls Winners


Salima Jabbie, Lambert

12.19 in 100m at McEachern Invitational, 3rd (Last year: 13.60)

Lambert's two fastest 100-meter runners this year are Aminah and Salima Jabbie, and both athletes have taken incredible leaps during their sophomore seasons. Overall, it appears that Aminah has been slightly faster in the 100, while Salima has edged out her sister in the 300-meter hurdles this season. However, both Jabbies are ranked in the top 11 in both events for 7A. For Salima, her improvement in the 100 has been incredibly striking. As a freshman, she only broke the 14-second mark in two races. This season, she has run faster than 12.8 seconds in all races but one, and this weekend was her best outing yet, as she took third in the 67-runner field at the McEachern Invitational.


Gabriella Malerba, Decatur

2:21.25 in 800m at BSN Sports Eagle's Landing Golden Eagle Invitational, 3rd (Last year: 2:31.53)

The Golden Eagle Invitational hosted some incredibly competitive distance races this year, with the likes of Marist, McIntosh, Paideia, and more participating. Malerba showed out in the 800, taking third in just her second 800-meter run of the season. Her time marked her as a true triple threat at the state meet, as it complements her other season bests of 5:11.60 (1600m) and 11:15.79 (3200m), along with two steeplechase victories! With all that success, then, it's easy to forget that Malerba failed to advance past the region meet in any event last year, even after posting a season best in the 800 at the region meet. This season, Malerba has a great shot at scoring in the very competitive 5A state meet in all three events if she chooses to take on that challenge. Regardless, this season has already been a success for the Decatur junior.


Maya Steines, Alpharetta

37' 2.75" in Shot Put at 2022 Cambridge Senior Night Meet, 1st (Last year: 26' 8")

36' 4" in Shot Put at McEachern Invitational, 2nd

I'm not sure what Steines did in the offseason to improve her throwing prowess, but whatever she did, it has worked to perfection. Last season, the Alpharetta thrower posted season bests of under 27 feet in the shot put and under 80 in the discus. However, an indoor meet in February hinted at what was to come this spring, as Steines hurled the shot nearly 40 feet and even passed 36 feet in the more uncommon weight throw. This season, the Raiders junior has been on a shot put rampage, finishing no worse than second in any of eight meets and breaking her 2021 season best by over five feet in all of them. Most recently, she spoiled the Senior Night for Cambridge, throwing the shot more than 37 feet for an outdoor PR. 

Boys Winners


Markelle Cheek, Gainesville

15.10 in 110h at Rust Buster T&F Meet, 1st (Last year: 16.14)

41.30 in 300h at McEachern Invitational, 6th (Last year: 42.88)

Cheek has improved steadily throughout his high school career. In his shortened freshman campaign in 2020, he improved in every race he ran, but still finished the season with a PR of 17.54 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles. The following season, he began the year in the 18-second range, he but was able to work his way down to the low 16s, culminating in a fifth-place region finish of 16.14. He was only one spot out of sectionals qualifying in both hurdle events in 2021. This year, he clearly put in the work to improve. At the McEachern Invitational, Cheek ran a PR of 41.30 in the 300-meter hurdles. Even more impressively, he posted a 15.10 in the 110m hurdles for the win at West Forsyth, ranking him sixth in 7A and only 0.1 seconds from third.


Leon Waine, Alexander

4:23.61 in 1600m at Douglas County Championship, 1st (Last year: 4:36.36)

It's very rare for an athlete to improve considerably between their junior and senior years, but that's exactly what Waine has done this season for the Cougars. After plateauing in the high 4:30s for about two seasons, Waine broke through towards the end of the XC season, finishing in 16:47 in the 6A state meet. He won the Douglas County Championship this past week, finishing in a lifetime best 1600-meter time for the fourth consecutive meet. Arguably even more impressive has been his rise the 800, which has improved from 2:08 to 2:00 from 2021 to 2022. A top-three spot at state in the 1600 is not out of the question for Waine!


JD Black, Heritage (Catoosa)

6' 8" in High Jump at Southeast #4, 2nd (Last year: 5' 10")

I nearly left Black off of the Unsung Heroes this week because his performances were arguably too impressive for a list that honors "unrecognized" performances, but he still seems to have flown relatively under the radar due to his main event being high jump. The Heritage HS junior peaked at a height of 5' 10" last season and didn't even make the region squad. However, this season, his accomplishments have been impossible to ignore. First, he blew past his PR at the Southeast Whitfield #3 Meet, winning by 10 inches. Then, at the Southeast Whitfield #4 Meet last Tuesday, Black went toe-to-toe with very accomplished jumper Silas Griffin, who was second at the Meet of Champions last year. Black's new best height of 6' 8" ties him for third place, all-classifications.