The Five Big Storylines to Watch At The Wingfoot NOCs



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This Saturday will present the absolute best-of-the-best in Atlanta.

With the Wingfoot Night of Champions once again scheduled to go off -- this time at the George C. Griffin Track and Field facility at Georgia Tech -- the event will feature a litany of state champions and time-qualifiers for the most exclusive meet in the state. 

Just what can we expect? 

A year ago we saw the rise of freshman phenom Adaejah Hodge, we saw the brilliance of Will Sumner, and then we got treated to one of the most epic mile finishes we've ever seen. 

So, yes, you can be sure this one is going to hit

Check below for the top five storylines below. 


* Sumner talking about going back to the 800 after setting a state record in the 400.

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Woodstock senior Will Sumner had an indoor season for the ages, breaking all sorts of middle distance records. Then in March he opened up his outdoor season by breaking the Georgia state meet record in the 800m, and logged what is currently the fifth-fastest half-mile time in the nation.

But then he went to the sprints. Sumner spent most of the outdoor season focusing on the 400m and the 200m. And while he did anchor Woodstock's 4x800m relay team to the win at the state meet, his biggest highlight was breaking a 40-year-old state record in the 400m, last set by Antonio McKay, Sr.

But now, get ready: He's coming back to the 800m for the postseason.

And that season really kicks off with his attempt this Saturday night in Atlanta at the Wingfoot Night of Champions. Everybody around the country is anxiously looking on to see what he will do.


* Palmer Walstad barely holds off Margaret Wade at the 3A state meet. Photo by Alex Brust

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The Wingfoot Night of Champions mile is the highlight event of the night, and the meet organizers have saved it for last.

At last year's event, we saw four girls break 5:00 in the mile. And while none of them return this year, we look to have even more who could break the barrier this year.

The event is headlined by what looks to be a state meet rematch between Palmer Walstad and Margaret Wade. The two girls took it to the final steps last week at the GHSA Class 3A state meet; they are also the two fastest seeds.

But don't overlook Samantha McGarity, who won the 1,600m and 3,200m fairly easily in the Class 7A state meet and also anchored their 4x800m relay team to the fourth-fastest time in state history.

Lottie Chappell and Caroline Hood have also broken the 5:00 barrier already this year and will look to lower their times. Add to that mix four more girls who have come within a couple of seconds of breaking it with Claire Shelton, Lily Cincola, Clodagh O'Bryant, and Ruby Little and we could be in for a real treat in the penultimate event on Saturday.


* Barker after winning the 300m hurdles last year at Wingfoot

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In the 300mH we will see three boys who are separated by only 0.19 seconds based on PRs.

And while all three have been close to perfect this year, they've barely seen each other with the only showdown being Malik Mixon and Christion Barker at the Class 6A state meet when Barker was clearly off.

So it's anybody's guess who will come out on top. Isaiah Taylor is the Class 5A champion and has the fastest time so far this year, which is tied for the fifth-fastest time ever in Georgia. Mixon has also had a stellar season in both hurdles and is the two-time Class 6A state champion. He even finished third in both hurdle events at the Arcadia Invitational.

His PR is only 0.04 seconds behind Taylor's, which makes him tied for the seventh-fastest ever in Georgia. And Barker was having the best season of all at the end of March. While he hasn't quite looked like himself in April and May, that may be due to focusing on the team goals rather than himself which may have caused him to be stretched a little too thin.

The good news is he was able to help Shiloh win the Class 6A team title and he now gets to come back and focus just on his best event. He is also the defending champion in the 300m hurdles, so he knows how to win here. If he regains his mid-season form, then we could see three guys side-by-side by side over the final hurdle ... giving the state record a run for it's money.


* Grisik finishing 4th in the 800 last year. Photo by Alex Brust

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Last year we saw the state record go down in the 800m, as the first two girls went No. 1 and No. 3 all-time in a classic race. This year, we could see even more girls break 2:10, as there are at least five girls in the mix that are knocking on the door.

But what's also fun about this race is that it features a few rematches from the state meet. The biggest rematch is Kenyah Conner vs. Oluwatosin Awoleye, who were separated by only 0.08 seconds at the GHSA Class 5A state meet, a race that Conner was able to win.

The other rematch is Cara Joyce vs. Shari Brown, which is a classic Senior vs. Freshman battle that Joyce was able to win.

Another high profile rematch is of Lyric Olson and Morgan Collins, who both finished first and third at the Class 3A state meet. Olson is actually the favorite after putting up the fastest time in the state so far this year.

And finally, we've also got Cortney Adams and Charlotte Dunn, who went 1-2 in the 6A state meet. Lena Cook is also entered after finishing third in the Class 5A race and has been having a very strong finish to her season. She actually ran faster at the sectional meet and you wonder if she, like almost every other girl in this race, was tired from her third day of racing.

That won't be the case for any of them this time as they'll all be much fresher and ready to run even faster in a loaded field. That definitely applies for Johna Grisik, who absolutely killed it at this meet last year.

She again put forth a big team effort with several races at the 4A state meet to help secure the victory for Marist girls. And again she will come to the 800m fresh instead of tired. Last year in that scenario she was able to finish fouth, and none of the girls who beat her return this year.


* Josh Dare will be looking for some revenge at the Wingfoot Night of Champions

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It's rare to have two boys in Georgia that have thrown almost 200 feet. It's even more rare to get to see the face off in the state meet.

But that's exactly what the GHSA Class 5A throwing fans got treated to last weekend. Josh Dare came in with the best PR of 199-0, but it was Seth Allen who ended up taking home the title when he hit 197-1 on his very first throw.

Dare, as good as he is, was not quite able to match the throw and had to settle for second. Their PRs of 199-0 for Dare and 198-0 for Allen rank them fourth and fifth all-time in Georgia history, and we will get to see these two star seniors throw the discus one more time as a high school athlete in this state.

I'm sure both of them are thinking about that elusive 200 foot barrier, but the state record of 204-2 is definitely in jeopardy as they meet again in peak condition. The record has stood since 1985 and is one of the oldest on the books.

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