Zionn Rice winning the 100m hurdles at Cobb County earlier this year
The event Hub where we will have the live streams, meet previews, live results, photos, videos, interviews, and meet recaps of all 8 of the 2022 GHSA State Track and Field Championships. Check it out:
7A Meet Preview
Foreword: Thankfully, this track season went by without a hitch. COVID, at least in terms of athletics, appears to be on the back burner. What we were treated with was an exciting season that is about to see its end. Major team implications, as usual, are at stake here per event. What things look like after Thursday may drastically change come Saturday. That's what's so exciting (and heartbreaking) about Track & Field!
The way I'll handle this is 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 threats.
Girls Team Score Projections
Lowndes - 80
Brookwood - 70
Hillgrove - 62
McEachern - 42
Cherokee - 42
Campbell - 34
Harrison - 27
Event by Event Previews (again - in order of contested FINALS)
Field Events (NOTE: ALL Field Events are contested on Thursday at State this year!)
High Jump: The ladies' competition begins with the High Jump, an always intriguing event. Some years, the difference between a win and 8th place is 4 inches or fewer... sometimes, jump offs have to occur to determine who places where. The nature of this event makes predicting it pretty tough, but luckily, you have me to help you try and sort it out. Leading the way is Ariyah Davis of Lowndes with a career best 5-6 which she did to win Region. She's finished no lower than 3rd at any point this season and is the only one in the field over 5-4.75. Wait, what? Yeah - Mya Hines of Peachtree Ridge cleared 5-4.75 at Region. Interestingly, she struggled to clear 5-0 until April and then bam, she figured it out in a big way. Many others have cleared 5-4 previously including Chloe Brown (Harrison), Trinity Hunter (Lowndes), and Bella Zorzoli (West Forsyth).
Team Implications: You're going to be seeing a lot of Lowndes in this preview as they are absolutely loaded with talent. They could put up 15 points here as an early haymaker on the rest of the field. The other 2 standouts based on my metrics, Brookwood and Hillgrove, will not be in this event.
Discus: We have 3 ladies entered in this field who have slung it over 130 feet and look to be the standouts. Amaani Hogan of Archer stands atop at 133-10. This throw won her Sectionals and was a monster PR, so she's getting hot when it counts. Kameryn Hannon from Grayson comes in at 131-0 while Maya Steines will try to get Alpharetta some points on the board; she's sitting at 130-4. The top 10 have all thrown over 112 feet, making this kind of a 2-way race: A race for top 3, and a race for the rest.
Team Implications: Hillgrove has a chance to strike here with Briana O'Connor seeded 4th. Lowndes does have 2 throwers here in Janiyah McKeithen and Machenzie McMichael, but neither are projected to score. That doesn't mean they can't.
Long Jump: This could be a really fun battle as this event has some strong depth. We've got 2 girls well into the 19s including favorite Skylar Harrelson (Cherokee) and Chloe Perryman (Brookwood). Harrelson currently ranks #11 in the USA with her 19-11.75, so if she can find that extra quarter inch, it'll put her in pretty elite company. Perryman on the other hand is undefeated in the event this season, including a victory over Harrelson at Sectionals, and is top 40 in the USA. Both of these ladies have spent time in both the 18s and 19s this season, so this should be a war. We cannot count out some of the others, though. Delilyah Pelham (Mill Creek), Jordyn Ash (Newton), Trinity Williams (Dunwoody), and Rebecca Allen (North Paulding) have all leaped over 18 feet in their careers, making this event one of the deepest on this State Slate.
Team Implications: Perryman can give the Lady Broncos a big boost in this event if she can pull off the win. Cherokee rates out as a bit of a podium threat, too, and that will largely be on Harrelson's shoulders as she is one of a couple true studs for this squad.
Pole Vault: A fairly deep field this year in the vault as the top 6 ladies have all cleared 11 feet. Riley Jones of South Forsyth has a fairly comfortable lead, having leapt 12-3 over Spring Break at Marietta. It's her only time over 12 feet this season though, so some of the chasers could have something to say about not being labeled as favorite. West Forsyth's Silvana Lopez-Ramirez cleared 11-6 at the McEachern Invitational which could be one of those unmeasurable "intangibles" as she returns to where she jumped her best. Mill Creek's Victoria Freeland (11-0.25), Cherokee's Tara Parks (11-0), Roswell's Lynley Blocker (11-0), and Denmark's Nicole Counter (11-0) can all flirt with the win in a field this tight. The vault is always unpredictable and is just an absolute mental grind. Who will be able to overcome those early misses and prevail?
Team Implications: Cherokee could use some help from Parks here. If she can break away and flirt with the win, it catapults Cherokee up the leaderboard and could be a difference maker in a top 4 finish.
Shot Put: We've got 4 lady qualifiers who have covered 40 feet or more in the shot put. Sha'nyia Woolery of Berkmar leads the way at 44-3 which is top 50 nationally at the moment. She's also red hot right now as she hit that as her PR at Sectionals to score the victory. Lurking in the shadows though is Archer's Christianne Akintayo who has a 43-11 to her name. This mark puts her just outside the top 50 nationally, so we've got some star power in this event. It could be a "shove" for 3rd if these 2 ladies are on their A-game. Look for Kameryn Hannon from Grayson and Lexie Durban from North Forsyth to make things interesting if something goes awry for our 2 favorites.
Team Implications: Archer on paper has a good bit of ground to gain, and Akintayo can really help her team if she can sneak in and win. None of the other team favorites have a cannon entered, so this could be a separation style event.
Triple Jump: Yet another field event where we could be in for a real treat. We have 3 ladies who have covered over 39 feet; 2 of them are from Lowndes, and the other is the aforementioned Skylar Harrelson of Cherokee. Lowndes's Kaylan McConnehead's 39-10.75 and Harrelson's 39-10.25 are just BEGGING us to cheer them on to over 40 feet. Can Harrelson score big in this event and have "20/40" vision in the jumps? The second jumper for Lowndes in the field, My'Asia Howard, is a huge threat to win as well with her 39-2. Jordyn Ash has some recent success at 38-4.25, good for 4th at her sectional behind the previously listed 3 ladies. Add a batch of ladies over 37 feet to the mix, and we could hear some hooting and hollering down at the jump pit Thursday! All it takes sometimes is one big jump to melt the field. Who's it gonna be??
Team Implications: Lowndes could deliver a devastating blow here to round out the field events. They have tons of strength coming on the track, so any paydirt they can get in the field events could make it really tough on the chasers. Brookwood, known for their jumpers, should not be ignored in these field events either. Cherokee has a stud in Harrelson, too, that could make this a tight battle heading into the 4x800m and beyond.
4x800m Finals: Following the 4x200m qualifying is the first running finals of the State Championships - the 4x800m! This scores out as another deep event at State with no hands down favorite. Only 22 total seconds separate 1st from 10th which may seem like a lot, but not every team has run full strength in this event yet, and as I've said before, State is a great equalizer. Hillgrove comes in as the narrow favorite with a 9:46. Yolanda Brooks, Ava Brooks, and Reese Terza can all start their State Meet experience with a high note here by getting a win. Always dangerous Brookwood is right behind them though, led by Macy Felton and Allie Wardle. Both of these teams rank out in my overall top 3 in terms of team standings, so this could be a slugfest in trying to gain an early edge for podium spots. Lambert, Marietta, Etowah, Alpharetta, Milton, and Harrison have ALL broken 10:00 this season, so similar to the boys, I expect these handoffs to be hectic and the drama to be heavy. What a way to end Day 1!!
Team Implications: If Lowndes falters at all in the field events, this could be a huge opening for Hillgrove and/or Brookwood to close the gap a bit. Lowndes is very sprint heavy but does not have a 4x800m relay team, so yet another swing event that can perhaps start to paint a bit of a picture as we try to get some sleep and rest for the next 2 days.
3200m Finals: Have you ever been at a concert (or a "show" as some of you "Scene" kids like to call it) and it was so crowded that you had to "throw some bows" to get through? That was my first thought when looking at the career PRs of the ladies entered in this 3200m. Holy crap. The top 10 are all separated by only 16 seconds! While State XC got separated pretty early on through the top 5, I'm not so sure that'll be the case in this 3200m. Dunwoody's Claire Shelton is just downright dangerous on the track, and while she ran her 10:57 early in the year, she hasn't really "had" to run all out until now. Does she have more in the tank? Ashley Thompson of Gainesville won the event last year in dramatic fashion, and while she hasn't looked as strong yet, we have to believe she can be a threat whenever she steps on the track. Samantha McGarity won the State XC championship and has broken 5:00 in the 1600m. She hasn't been *quite* as dominant in track, but she could be saving her best for last. Ava Brooks (Hillgrove), Farrah Frith (Milton), Lexi Pavese (Cherokee), Maddie Jones (Marietta), Reese Terza (Hillgrove), Emma Geaney (Parkview), and Isabel Yonas (South Forsyth) can ALL pack up and overwhelm our favorites. If they can hang and don't allow a gap to open up? Be prepared for some fireworks.
Team Implications: Dunwoody and Harrison are definitely top 10 team threats and could finish a bit higher if their studs prevail in this one. Hillgrove really needs Brooks and Terza to score, and Cherokee's Lexi Pavese has had herself a strong season. Again, Cherokee doesn't have the volume, but they do have the studs. It'll be exciting to see how things end Friday heading into finals day.
Saturday: ALL remaining Running Finals!
100m Hurdles: Opening things up on Saturday is the 100m Hurdles which could be a fun duel between Campbell's Zionn Rice and Parkview's Carson Moore. Rice went 14.23 last year and has gone 14.31 thus far this year, showing some strong consistency. Moore, on the other hand, has gone 14.67 this year but has also been over 15 a few times. That squarely puts other contenders in great spots should she falter. Camryn King of Archer, Veajah Hylton of Brookwood, and Zoe Ziglor of Harrison have all broken 15 seconds at varying points this season, so a fierce battle could occur right before our eyes.
Team Implications: Brookwood, always known for hurdlers, could throw another jab at the rest of the competition here. Campbell and Archer both have what it takes to have big days and push up the leaderboard, and here is a great spot to get that done.
100m: Seven girls will arrive in Powder Springs with sub-12 100m times to their credit. That's... pretty fast. Lowndes's Kaniya Johnson leads the way with an 11.46 which has her currently #15 in the US of A. Household name Tamiia Fuller of Peachtree Ridge is undefeated in the 100m this year and nearly equaled her career PR of 11.50 by running 11.56 at Sectionals. Throw in Newton's McKenzie Calloway seeded at 11.63, and we have another example of 3 ladies in the top 50 Nationally all likely going to be burning up the track, or their spikes. Can we please see the winner tear off her spikes and have her coach hit them with the fire extinguisher a la Maurice Green? Wait... you youngins don't even know what I'm talking about, do you? Do yourself a favor and watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSt0SMgIa9g . You'll thank me later. ***Writer's note: I cannot guarantee you won't get DQ'd if you do that, but I can promise I'll tell the officials that they are no fun.
Team Implications: Lowndes is just fast, fam. That South GA heat has done them well. It won't be *as* hot at McEachern perhaps as they're used to, but other teams will need help from Fuller, Calloway, et al to stop the Vikettes from putting up a dime.
4x200m Relay: New to the State Slate this year is the 4x200m. What used to be a relay-meet attraction has now become an event that hopefully will cement itself as a true swing event. With coaches now having 4 event limits instead of 5 AND more events to choose from, it becomes a tougher strategy game than once upon a time. What is NOT a repeat is how exciting and CRITICAL this event could be in the girls' team standings! Our top 2 seeds? That's right. Brookwood vs. Lowndes. Speed vs. Speed. These schools are 245 miles apart, but when they're together at McEachern, they could be within a meter. Look for Kaniya Johnson (Lowndes) and Madison Campbell (Brookwood) to be big here. And don't worry, I see you, Campbell. Campbell is right on their tails at 1:39.45 (compared to their 1:39.29 and 1:39.38).
Team Implications: Get Mr. or Mrs. Momentum on the phone and ask which team he or she is favoring after this event.
1600m Run: The girls 1600m is so loaded this year that some coaches (*raises hand*) felt that the better move was to dodge the event completely. What is already a deep event could've been even deeper. Either way, what we have are 6 girls who have broken 5:10 and 13 girls who have broken 5:20. Samantha McGarity is the only one in the field who has broken 5:00, but if this thing opens up fast, on a fast track, we could see a couple more. Claire Shelton, as I said before, is a maniac on the track. The Cherokee duo of Lexi Pavese (top returner from last year) and Lily Cincola are both seeded top 4. Ashley Thompson will try to rediscover the magic, and familiar faces in Ava Brooks (Hillgrove), Macy Felton (Brookwood), and Maddie Jones (Marietta) should be joined by some newer faces such as Jessica Perriello (Denmark), Caroline Harris (Lambert), Bella Cammorota (Lambert), and Leah Pfaff (East Coweta). Makenna Calbert of Etowah is another one who simply cannot be ignored given her history on the track.
Team Implications: Cherokee needs their 2 ladies to score big, and if history is a good indicator, they will. Macy Felton can help out the Lady Broncos if she is able to catch a couple ranked ahead of her. It's critical for them (and Hillgrove!) to catch back up in events that Lowndes is not featured in.
4x100m Relay: Here's another event that features our probable top 3 teams in Lowndes, Brookwood, and Hillgrove. There's a reason that they're the biggest podium threats: They're in lots, and lots of events. The 4x100m, a longtime staple of Track & Field, is now kind of an awkward middle child between other critical sprint events. Lowndes's 46.28 currently sits #20 in the country and gaps the field on paper here. Hillgrove (46.65), Lambert (46.66), and McEachern (46.80) will seek to creep in, though. Something interesting I noticed: Lambert does not have a sprinter qualified in the 100m, 200m, nor 400m, and yet they have run the 3rd fastest 4x100m time in 7A this year. Pretty impressive depth.
Team Implications: Yet another big event where one team will increase their fortune while the other(s) will wonder what went wrong, or what just didn't quite go right enough.
400m: I might be wrong on this, but I feel like I remember when I was younger and it was super impressive that a girl could break 60 on the track... now it seems like it's commonplace. They aren't just breaking 60 anymore... our top 10 have all run under 57.5. Fire, my friend. Fire. Zoe Turner of Pebblebrook leads the way with her Region 2 Championship winning 55.4. Campbell's Sydney Nettles turned in a 55.66 - also at Region 2... so we've got ourselves another potentially fierce rivalry. Throw in the likes of Brookwood's Serena Tate (55.71) and Madison Campbell (56.09), McEachern's Yasmine Williams (55.77), and Forsyth Central's Kieryn Jeter (56.26), and you've got yourself one heck of an entertaining potential final.
Team Implications: Brookwood's got 2 girls here in Tate and Campbell. Lowndes does have an athlete here in Trinity Hunter who's run 57.46, but will it be enough to make the finals? Depending on how things go, things could come down to single digit points.
300m Hurdles: We've got lots of top 50 nationally ranked athletes at State (like most years), and we've got yet another here with an additional sighting of Campbell's Zionn Rice. Rice is over 2 seconds clear of the next competitors, and this could be one of the few dominating wins we witness on the girls' side this year. We cannot count out names like Kara Stewart (McEachern), Ron-Niah Wright (Peachtree Ridge), Jeanne Hardy (Dunwoody), and Veajah Hylton (Brookwood) - all of whom range from 45.3 to 45.99. But on paper? This looks like an impressive route for Zionn Rice.
Team Implications: Campbell doesn't have a lot of "bullets in the gun" but they do have Zionn Rice who, similar to Chris Nelson, will score her team a mess load of points. Brookwood, as usual, has 2 hurdlers here in Hylton and Kylin Beard, and both are projected to make the finals. Lowndes's Jakayla Brown is ranked outside the top 8, but if she can make her way to the finals, she could help offset some of that projected advantage that Brookwood has. Hillgrove's Madison Morse (48.2) will also make the trip to Powder Springs.
800m: We appear to have a little more variety on the girls' 800m side, at least at the top, when compared to the boys. Sydney Augmon of Peachtree Ridge comes in at 2:15.41 and is closely followed by Discovery's Taylor Watkins (2:15.65). Both of these ladies feature as 400m/800m style runners. Kate Curtis of Harrison (2:16.11) is also not in the 1600m. Will this help them be a bit fresher than their competition? Lily Cincola of Cherokee has clocked a 2:17.42, but she along with others in the field could be pretty wiped out by the time they get here. This is State though. Sometimes, athletes save the best for last. There are a bunch of additional girls in this field who have all broken 2:20 including Etowah's Meg Lance (2:17.67), Brookwood's Macy Felton (2:17.89), Milton's Ella Grace Malcom (2:18.70), Hillgrove's Yolanda Brooks (2:18.86), Lambert's Caroline Harris (2:18.88), and Parkview's Jaimie Chen (2:19.03). It'll be a mad dash to the finish line to make the finals, and then it'll be a matter of who's got what it takes to power through one more time (unless they're in the 4x400m.... :D).
Team Implications: Another opportunity for Brookwood, Hillgrove, and even Cherokee to either put a bigger dent in the gap to Lowndes or extend the gap away from Lowndes. Teams will begin to have a pretty clear picture of where they stand following this event.
200m: Psst. Kaniya Johnson of Lowndes is fast. Very fast. The Florida State commit's fastest time of 23.41 is #11 in the USA right now, and this could be a knockout punch for other teams trying to contend. What we do have here, though, is some heavy, heavy talent again. Tamiia Fuller (Peachtree Ridge) is currently #19 in the USA. McKenzie Calloway (Newton) is #53 in the USA. A slew of other girls have broken 25 seconds which will sort of cause this race to have a "race within a race"... a race for the win, and a race for 4-8.
Team Implications: Hillgrove has 2 State Qs in Ryan Davis (24.34) and Christina Joseph (24.59). Cherokee's Skylar Harrelson, a much mentioned name already, is also ranked in the top 8 at 24.61. Brookwood's Madison Campbell is also qualified for this event but will need to make the finals to assist her team as we head into the 4x400m.
4x400m: "All roads lead to the 4x400m". Lowndes could stamp their approval of a State Championship with a victory in the 4x400m. The Vikettes are a solid favorite in the event at 3:52.02, good for 48th in the Nation. McEachern is pretty close behind at 3:53.86. The question is - can Brookwood close it? 6 seconds is a ton of time in the 4x400m, but we all know what happens when the horses line up. Will the championship be decided in this race as all dramatic Track & Field championships do?
Team Implications: On paper, Lowndes has what it takes to get this done; however, Brookwood has more events covered, and as I continued to write this preview, I continued to see Bronco Bronco Bronco. Lowndes has more "dime" opportunities while Brookwood can continue to punch in nickels and pennies and just keep chipping away and chipping away. Hillgrove should not be ignored either. They do not have a 4x4, so they'll need to do whatever they can leading up to this, but they've got a shot, too. McEachern rates out as another podium threat, and if they can win the 4x4, it may propel them into the top 4.
Boys Team Score Projections
Marietta - 78
South Forsyth - 58
Brookwood - 55
Mill Creek - 41
McEachern - 34
West Forsyth - 33
Denmark - 33
Woodstock - 28
Field Events (NOTE: ALL Field Events are contested on Thursday at State this year!)
Pole Vault: We open up competition (and hey, knowing this event, could end competition...) with the Pole Vault. Alon Rogow of Dunwoody enters as the favorite by over a foot with a career best 16-7.5. Zane Gibson of Etowah and Andrew Dassler of Milton both enter at 15-0 and are chased by a slew of individuals at 13-6 or higher. The dreaded "no height" is always a fear in this event, and the vault is always an event that tests the competitors' nerves - especially if they miss early. Strategy becomes a factor here as fatigue can set in by coming in too early. This does appear to be Rogow's event to lose though based on the season. He is undefeated outdoors in 2022.
Team Implications: On paper, none of the heavy hitters in this event are featured on teams with major shots to contend; however, heavy team favorite Marietta does have a vaulter in Will Fredrick at 13-6. He could give the Blue Devils a little "jump" start here.
Discus: This one could be fun. The top 3 hurlers of the superhuman frisbee (term currently in courts for trademarking. I expect royalties) are all within 6 feet of each other. Leading the way is defending State Champion Max Herman of Marietta with a career best 169-2 which he threw at State last year. Langston Jones of Brookwood is very close behind at 168-8.5 which he threw at Sectionals to defeat Herman. This was a monster PR for Jones, so he'll need to repeat that to take down the defending champ. Alex Shepard of South Gwinnett is no slouch either, entering at 162-5 which won him both the Gwinnett County and Region Championship.
Team Implications: Get used to seeing Marietta in this metrics. Herman is no stranger to the bigtime, and he can really give his squad a lift by stamping a big "tenner" on the board early on in the field events.
High Jump: Brookwood has 3 projected State Champions based on career PR entering the 2022 State Championships, and the first one up is Braden Deal. Deal enters at 6-8 and has won 7 times this season. Entering tied with Deal though is Discovery's Maurice Thomas who jumped 6-8 last year but has been stuck at 6-6 this season. Literally stuck. He's jumped 6-6 EIGHT times this season - each of the times he's competed. If we look at consistency, Thomas has the edge. If we look at recent upside, perhaps Deal has the edge. Noel Asiedu of Alpharetta comes in at 6-6. It should be noted that Sectional "A" stopped competition in the Pole Vault and High Jump once the top 8 was determined, so it's tough to determine true current form.
Team Implications: Brookwood is a huge podium threat this year, but they do not have a lot of depth in their events. What they do have though are studs. The Broncos can make some early noise with a big result in the always unpredictable High Jump.
Shot Put: All projected scorers in the Shot have chunked the cannon ball over 50 feet. William Muller of Roswell features as the on-paper favorite with a 54-7.75 which admittedly he did last year. He did pull it to 53-7.75 to win Sectionals this year though. Ethan Sinon of McEachern will look to overcome some adversity in this event after not making it through in the Discus at Sectionals. His 54-0 comes in as second best although, again, it was last year. David Sayles of Woodstock hit a huge PR at Sectionals with a 53-7 and could be getting hot at the right time. Brandon Akers (Mill Creek), Jones (Brookwood), and Nathan Efobi (South Forsyth) could all threaten these guys though as the Shot Put isn't as stout this year as it's been in the past. Could be wide open.
Team Implications: Could be a big swing event for the podium contenders. Mill Creek, Brookwood, and South Forsyth are all pining for podium spots, and this event could really alter their trajectory early on in State competition.
Long Jump: Chris Nelson of South Forsyth is a stud. He's clear of the rest of the field by over a foot with a monster 25-0 leap which currently places him 6th nationally. He's been over 23 feet several other times and enters as a pretty convincing favorite. Deonte Cole of Camden (23-8) won his Sectionals meet and Isaiah Sanders of Marietta (23-5) was runner-up in the same event. Throw teammate Will Fredrick and Gainesville Malik Drinkard into the mix, and you've got a pretty deep Long Jump which will have a dozen guys who have leaped 22+ feet.
Team Implications: Marietta has THREE long jumpers in this event with 2 projected to score. If South Forsyth is going to be a team threat, it'll be on the back of Chris Nelson and their distance runners. Nelson can and will outscore most teams by himself; the question is how many.
Triple Jump: Boubacar Ndome of Marietta leads the TJ on paper with a 47-11 mark that he did in Rome earlier this year. Michael Tatnall of Meadowcreek comes in at 47-2.25 which won him Sectionals, so he's entering red hot. Ethan Crite of Roswell is another 47+ guy who won himself a Sectional meet. Devin Dahunsi (Milton), Acari Alexander (McEachern), and Josh Nelson (South Forsyth) have all covered 45+ feet this season and could keep it close and pressure the favorites.
Team Implications: Just keep it rolling, Marietta. You could dang near end this thing before an athlete even steps onto the track...
4x800m Finals: Following the 4x200m qualifying is the first running finals of the State Championships - the 4x800m! New last year, all scoring teams had to break 8:00 to earn a medal. Will it be as fast this year? The only obvious hiccup by Marietta at Sectionals was that their 4x800m didn't qualify which opens the door for other teams to make up some ground. On paper, Mill Creek seems to be the team to beat. They're the only team in the field who has broken 8:00 (which they did solo) and could be continuing to feed off the energy they gathered after winning State XC. Jacob Peters and Ethan Nordman will lead this crew. Harrison has some new faces on their 4x800m this year following the departure of a couple super studs last year, but the likes of Sterling Sellier, Andrew Cole, and Kaden McVey could make them dangerous. A team flying under the radar in this event though could be Woodstock. They actually enter with the slowest seed (8:22), but they feature a super stud in Will Sumner who opted to do the 200m/400m/4x400m/4x800m quadruple this year. Add Joseph Mines (1:56) to the fold and a couple others in the low 2:00s, and Woodstock could pull off an Atlanta Braves style "worst to first" story. Denmark is always dangerous with Ethan Ashley, and teams like Lambert and Etowah have showcased some strong depth this season. Every team could realistically be mentioned here as having a chance of scoring. This will be an amazing way to end day 1.
Team Implications: Marietta not in the event does open the door a little, so podium threats like Mill Creek and West Forsyth could really change their fortunes if they can pull off a W.
3200m Finals: The only Final on Friday is the 3200m set to go in traditional order right before the 4x400m Q. The event in general doesn't look *quite* as deep as it was last year, but there is still some strong talent in this field. Ethan Ashley is the obvious on-paper favorite as he's continuing his trek to break 9:00. It's always critical to be healthy at this time of year though, so we may find out early on who's 100%. Jake Peters had the kick from Hell at County to go 9:13 and could pull off an upset if he can just keep it close. Jared Fortenberry of Marietta could be the favorite to win the State XC title next year and could begin his rise to the top with a "dub" on Friday. Dru Moore (Etowah), Ben Bergey (South Forsyth), Caden Hall (Parkview), Trent Bell (West Forsyth), and Andrew Cole (Harrison) all spent XC and/or Track season beating each other up, and this event looks to be no different. I expect there to be a massive clump of talent through 1600m in this event; the question is how fast will it be?
Team Implications: Denmark's only hope of a podium finish is on the back of Ethan Ashley. Fortenberry can add more cushion to Marietta's probable lead, and Bergey and Bell could help their teams ascend to the top 4 closing out Friday.
Saturday: ALL remaining Running Finals!
110m Hurdles: This one could get spicy. The top 2 coming into the event are also crosstown rivals in Makai Williams of Brookwood and Keonte Knight of Parkview. Williams has 6 victories in the event this year compared to Knight's 4. Williams has had Knight's number in head-to-head competition, but State is the great equalizer. Let's not ignore Connor Reidy (14.99) of West Forsyth, Joshua Crum (15.03) of Brookwood, Silas Goolsby (15.04) of Mill Creek, and Daniel James (15.06) of McEachern.
Team Implications: Parkview is in an interesting spot. They feature in more events than almost any other team, yet they aren't projected to score big points in most of them - leaving them with some heavy upside. Knight IS projected to score big and could really help kickstart a strong finals day for the Panthers. The Broncos, meanwhile, will be leaning heavily on their studs in order to snag a podium spot, and their 2 hurdlers are both absolutely studs.
100m: Every sprinter when they join Track wants to be a 100m runner. There will only be 8 that score points for their team. Chris Nelson of South Forsyth enters as a very heavy favorite. His 10.28 is 1st overall in Georgia and top 25 Nationally. Dwight Phillips of Pebblebrook exploded onto the scene this year. His 10.46 was in the same exact race as Nelson's 10.28 which I bet was a lot of fun to watch. Can Phillips catch Nelson? Davin Denny of Newton won Region with a sub 10.6 effort while Patrick Haertel (Forsyth Central), Michael Eady (Lowndes), and Keyawn Spencer (Pebblebrook) all feature at 10.7 or faster.
Team Implications: As I said before, Nelson will single-handedly defeat the majority of entire teams competing. Pebblebrook and Lowndes, on paper, are on the outside looking in in terms of podium spots, but any shot they have could be helped in this event.
4x200m Relay: New to the State Slate this year is the 4x200m. What used to be a relay-meet attraction has now become an event that hopefully will cement itself as a true swing event. With coaches now having 4 event limits instead of 5 AND more events to choose from, it becomes a tougher strategy game than once upon a time. (yes, that's a repeat from the girls' preview. My creativity is waning) We have 5 teams entered who have all broken 1:28 this season. Campbell at 1:26.1 and Marietta at 1:26.7 lead the way. Aveion Hayes (Campbell) and Jace Arnold (Marietta) appear to be the leaders in this relay for their teams. Parkview, led by Eric Pullum, features 3rd here while Grayson could get some help from their 400m runners "running down" as Brady Daniels, Kody Pugh, and James Thomas all compete later on in the open 400.
Team Implications: Our first Campbell sighting, but it may not be our last. Marietta as usual is here, and we have another Parkview team that could start making some noise early on Friday.
1600m Run: Usually, this event is held in the evening, so it'll be interesting to see how things go with the 1600m in its new "normal" spot. The 1600m is where all the talent meets "in the middle" as half tends to go the 800m route for their second event while the other half gravitate longer in the 3200m. Many aforementioned faces will feature in this event including favorite Ethan Ashley of Denmark who comes in with a 4:11 (top 50 nationally) earlier this year. Trent Bell of West Forsyth comes in clocking a 4:15 while Jared Fortenberry (Marietta) and Nate Verska (South Forsyth) enter at 4:17. The dangerous Jake Peters (Mill Creek) lurks behind with Ben Bergey (South Forsyth), Dru Moore, and Andrew Balogh (both Etowah) are also sub 4:20.
Team Implications: Same with the 3200m. Fortenberry helps Marietta roll, Ashley, Peters, and Bell help their teams try to podium, and Nate Verska and Ben Bergey try to help Chris Nelson will South Forsyth to a podium spot.
4x100m Relay: What used to kick things off on finals day now finds itself in the middle of things. This is an interesting development as these kids used to be fresh on Finals day, and now they'll have a little more business in the legs. We have 5 teams entered here who have broken 42 seconds. Leading the way is Pebblebrook at 41.14. They surely will feature Dwight Phillips who has a chance of contending in the 100m Finals. Lowndes comes in at 41.38 and should be led by Tydreke Thomas, another big contender in the 100m. Obviously, South Forsyth (41.64) will be led by Chris Nelson, and McEachern should have a nice showing by Drewmel Banks.
Team Implications: Marietta is in this event, but they're not projected to score... obviously, that doesn't mean they won't. Pebblebrook lurks in the background of a strong team spot, and they really help themselves out if they run the chalk here and pick up the win.
400m: Two sub-47s headline this field. Ricky Williams of Camden comes in at 46.62. The sophomore currently has the #1 time in the NATION for 10th graders, and he could begin to cement a pretty amazing legacy with a W at State this year. An interesting twist here: His biggest rival is Will Sumner who is #4 in the country at 800m. Can he run down this speedy sophomore? Devin Clark of Marietta, Joshua Knox of McEachern, and James Thomas of Grayson will look to keep pace with these 2, but this could be a duel between 2 vastly, vastly different athletes with near-impossibly different backgrounds and futures.
Team Implications: Camden doesn't appear to be a team threat, but Woodstock has an outside shot of a solid team finish if they play their cards right. Marietta could be getting some insurance money here, and Mill Creek will need Patterson to perform big to help their prospects.
300m Hurdles: The Brookwood duo of Bryce Dopson and Joshua Crum enter here as the favorites and could stamp 18 points for the Broncos in a critical event for them. Sean Dyer of Grayson is close in the background though as he joins the other 2 at sub-39. Marquix Hamilton (Collins Hill), Zyon Davis (Mountain View), and Keonte Knight (Parkview) join the fold at sub-40, but this event seems a little more top-heavy than some others on the card.
Team Implications: No Marietta here, but it may not matter at this point. What does matter though is the podium chase, and Brookwood desperately needs this if they want any hope of pushing for a top 4 spot.
800m: This will begin to become a war of attrition as there will be some kids here in their 4th event (assuming 4x800m, 1600m, and 800m Q). The event itself is deep but not particularly top heavy. Malachi Sanders does come in as the heavy on-paper favorite at 1:53.6 and should be rested due to no 4x800m. Andrew Balogh of Etowah could be tired by this point, but he and Tavian Anderson of Denmark enter at sub-1:56. The chase for the finals will be intense, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a few guys actually run slower in the final than qualifying due to how hard it could be for some of these guys to make it to this point.
Team Implications: Mayfield of Marietta could squeak them another point or 2 while Sanders will do the dirty work and attempt to put up 10. The proverbial Fat Lady could be clearing her throat to belt her celebration of a Blue Devils State Title at this point.
200m: Chris Nelson (SURPRISE!) enters with a top 20 200m time and is also the defending State Champion in the event. He's the only sub-21 in the field, and he could end up as the top overall performer at the 2022 edition of the State Championships. How tired will the rest of the competition be? I've also mentioned the likes of Joshua Knox (Campbell), Davin Denny (Newton), Tydreke Thomas (Lowndes), and Will Sumner (Woodstock). Will Aveion Hayes of Campbell be a little fresher, or will he be spent from relays? Will any of these guys just phone it in and score points and grab a medal? Or, will any try to conserve for the ever-important 4x400m?
Team Implications: South Forsyth's podium prospects could ride or die right here. Lowndes and Woodstock try to hang onto their chances with strong finishes in the penultimate event.
4x400m: "All roads lead to the 4x400m". Marietta could be in celebration mode as they're the heavy favorites in this event, a near-3 second gap on Grayson who actually has a strong opportunity here to pull off an upset against a team that may not need the win. Plus, as mentioned earlier, 3 of the 4 kids on Grayson's squad made the 400m event here, and all had to go comfortably under 50 to get through in what was a tough region battle. A ton of other teams come in between 3:22 and 3:26 including Woodstock, West Forsyth, Peachtree Ridge, McEachern, Harrison, Parkview, and Mountain View.
Team Implications: In theory, Marietta prevails here, but crazier things have happened. Brookwood, Mill Creek, and South Forsyth all will have needed to do some heavy damage by this point to have a shot. Parkview has the bullets, but do they have the gun powder to fire? Brookwood has the heavy studs, but do they have the depth? South Forsyth has possibly a generational athlete in Chris Nelson, but will that be enough?
Thank you for reading; I hope to see you guys out at McEachern! Swing by and say 'hey'... I'll almost certainly be wearing an orange visor per my norm...