(Coverage continues to be updated, race videos will be uploaded all week!)
5A State Meet Recap
Girls - Maynard Jackson girls win first title since 2016
The girls from Maynard H. Jackson High School dominated in what was expected to be a close battle at the GHSA 5A track and field state meet for their first championship since 2016. Their total of 84 points greatly exceeded their expected total from before the meet, and Jackson took down defending champions Woodward in the process. Hurdler Jessicka Woods won the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles with fantastic times of 14.05 and 42.39, capping off an undefeated season in hurdles finals for the Jaguars senior. Teammate Jaci Wright put on a show as well, winning the triple jump and long jump while finishing second in the 100 hurdles. Sprinter Kaseiana Meriweather scored 9 points in the 100 and 200, and she and Woods helped Jackson sweep the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Overall, Maynard Jackson did an impressive job of maximizing their points, eventually compiling 84 points from 11 total events and running away with the championship on Saturday.
Woodward hung on for a second-place finish in 5A. They were led by Kenyah Conner, who finished second in the 400 and first in the 800. Molly Devinney barely missed out on the pole vault title, finishing second on tiebreaks. Woodward's relays also came through clutch, with a third-place finish in the 4x100, fifth place in the 4x200, and second in the 4x400 to pass Blessed Trinity for second place in the last event of the meet.
Speaking of Blessed Trinity, they managed to place third with nearly all of their points coming from distance events or relays. Kelly Ann Sutterfield topped the field in the 3200 and finished second in the 1600, and teammate Claire Petersen finished third in the 1600 and fifth in the 800. Blessed Trinity's relay teams also did well, finishing second in the 4x800, third in the 4x200, and sixth in the 4x100.
Stockbridge High School finished in fourth with 46 points, thanks to thrower Jae'l Dunn (1st in discus, 3rd in shot put), 200/400 runner Kirah Copeland, and a state champion 4x400 relay that finished in 3:51.62 in a dramatic finale.
Lithia Springs finished fifth thanks to their talented sprinting squad led by Isis Banks, just ahead of Decatur, who were led by their distance runners. Chamblee and North Springs rounded out the rest of the top eight.
Performance of the Meet
Banneker just missed the top eight, finishing ninth with 26 points. Gardner contributed to 22 of those points, finishing third in the 200 and helping the Banneker 4x400 team win bronze on top of her state championship 400-meter run. Gardner continued to improve as the season progressed, setting a new season best six separate times this season. At the state meet, Gardner had to contend with Woodward's Kenyah Conner, who came in with a season best of 55.77. Gardner, last year's Meet of Champions winner, came through with her fastest time of 2022 in 55.77, the fifth-best time of any classification at the state meet, for the victory to lead a field in which six of seven runners broke 58 seconds.
Boys - Southwest Deklab wins first title since 2016
Southwest DeKalb has one of the most storied track and field programs in Georgia history. Their boys won seven state titles in GHSA's highest classification from 1987 to 1997, and more recently won two consecutive championships in 2015-16. They added to their trophy case on Saturday with a very impressive total score of 84 points to win the 5A state meet. They scored all of their points in the running events, too, so they scored all of their points on the final day of the meet! Isaiah Taylor led Southwest in the hurdles, winning the 300-meter hurdles by a full second and finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles. Ali Dargan finished second in the 100 and third in the 200, and Xzaviah Taylor finished third in both the 400 and the 300 hurdles. To cap it all off, the Panthers put together some all-star relay squads featuring all of these runners and more, sweeping the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400. Unfortunately, their 4x800 squad finished "only" 12th, which was the only thing preventing Southwest from having the first ever GHSA relay quadruple.
Blessed Trinity emerged from out of nowhere to capture second place, and by a decent margin as well. Predicted to finish tied for seventh, they ended up with 62 points led by some amazing performances from their distance runners. Clark Bilderback pulled off the upset victory in the 800, and Benjamin Rothering won the 1600 in a very tight finish while also finishing second in the 3200. With all their distance depth, it was not surprising to see the Titans win the 4x800 with relative ease. BT also received an important boost from jumper Jordan McCants, who finished third in the long jump and actually won the triple jump.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum from Southwest DeKalb, Calhoun finished third with 51 points, nearly all coming from field events. This meant that Calhoun actually entered Saturday with the lead before watching Southwest and Blessed Trinity chip away with their runners. Dylan Faulkner capped an excellent season with the rare high jump/pole vault double championship, and he even scored in both the discus and the shot put. Still only a junior, he looks like he would be a great decathlon athlete in college if he chooses to pursue that route. Jaylan Harris won the long jump and was also second in the high jump.
Starrs Mill, the fourth place team, was another field event-heavy school. Marc Stampley was second in the long jump and in the 300 hurdles. Tito Alofe was fourth in the high jump and in the triple jump. David Bowers finished third in the pole vault, and Josh Phifer finished third in the discus throw. Starr's Mill edged out Decatur, who could attribute most of their success to their distance runners and relays. Dutchtown, Creekside, and Whitewater all finished in the top eight with at least 36 points.
Performance of the Meet
Dylan Faulkner, Calhoun: 6' 10" in High Jump
The high jump was always going to be an exciting event at the 5A boys state meet. Starr's Mill's Tito Alofe came in as the slight favorite, but ten athletes had a season best within a mere three inches of Alofe's. In the end, only three athletes were able to pass the 6' 6" height: Faulkner, teammate Jaylan Harris, and New Manchester's Nicolas Crosswhite. All three had already set or tied their season best by this point. All three set new PRs by clearing the 6' 8" height. Faulkner had even more magic left, however, and cleared the 6' 10" bar on the first try, setting a new PR by 4 inches. This jump tied Faulkner for second in the high jump across all classifications.