Marist girls wining the 4x800m relay en route to another team title
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The girls from Marist ran away from the competition on the final day of the AAAA meet to earn the overall team title for the second year in a row. Their total of 96 points was less than it was expected to be, however, they had plenty of cushion to get the job done. The opening day of the meet was highlighted by key finishes by three seniors - Kate Euart (4th pole vault), Kate Lauterbach (3rd triple jump), and Amber Brown (3rd shot put). Thursday night the distance crew took control of the meet winning the 4x800m relay in a State Meet Record time over a very gritty team from North Oconee. The depth Marist displayed in the distance events made them impossible to beat. Ruby Little defended her title in the 3200m, with teammates Nicole Pizzo finishing 3rd, and Maeve Waddell in 5th. Johna Grisik posted wins in the 800m and 1600m, with Pizzo finishing 2nd in the 800m and Little was 2nd in the 1600m. Kate Selover capped off the distance points with a 4th place finish in the 1600m and a 7th place finish in the 800. This was the 5th team title for Marist in the last nine years.
Jefferson finished as the State Runner-Up for the 2nd year in a row, relying heavily on the work of two individuals - Katherine Law in the distance events, and Jada Pittman in the sprints and field events. Pittman took the state championship in the long jump early in the meet and put everyone on notice that Jefferson was there to compete. Teammates added big points in the field, including a 3rd place finish by Ella Kulniszewski in the pole vault and a 4th place finish by Eve Knight in the discus. Jada Pittman capped off the field scoring with a 6th place finish in the triple jump. That's when Katherine Law got to work, leading her team to a 3rd place finish in the 4x800m relay. Law came back on Friday to finish 2nd in the 3200m, and on Saturday she finished 3rd in the 1600m. Josie Loggins came up big for them in the 300m hurdles. It was all more than enough to edge out Druid Hills for 2nd.
Druid Hills showed the most balance on the track with several scorers in the sprints, relays, and distance events. Sanaa Frederick was arguably the star of the meet, winning state championships in the 100m, 200m, and leading her team to a 1st place finish in the 4x100m relay and a 2nd place finish in the 4x400m relay. They picked up big points in the 400m by Jayden Bolden, and 800m by Harley Martz. Katie Blount held her own in the distance events, finishing 4th in the 3200m and 7th in the 1600m
Arabia Mountain came out of the same region as Marist and Druid Hills to finish the meet in 4th place. They were led by Davenae Fagan, who was state champion in the 400m and state runner-up in the 200m. Kailey Elliott was the state champion in the 100m hurdles, while teammate, Candace Taylor, finished 4th in the same event. The Rams performed well in the sprint relays with a 3rd place finish in the 4x100m relay and a 6th place finish in the 4x200m relay.
Performances of the Meet: Davenae Fagan, 400m (54.67) & Ruby Little, 3200m (10:50.40)
The boys from Marist hadn't won a team title since 2017, but this year's victory gave them their 4th state championship in the past nine seasons. Like the Marist girls, the boys relied heavily on a strong distance crew as well as critical performances in the field. Three Marist boys (Michael Goode, Jonah Peterson, and Greg Pappas) picked up 11 points in the pole vault, and JZ Achindu placed 6th in the triple jump for an additional 3 points. The rest of Marist's 64 points came from the distance squad, and they needed every single one of them. On Thursday evening they picked up 6 points in the 4x800m in a very competitive race. The next afternoon the trio of Tommy Latham, Caden Strickland, and Everett Markwalter swept the 3200m run, with the young freshman, Latham, outkicking the senior, Strickland, for the win. The same three came back on Saturday to pick up another 15 points in the 1600m, including a 2nd place finish by Latham. The five points scored by Enoch Woldu and Ian Gaffney in the 800m gave the War Eagles just enough points to take home the title.
Stephenson made a valiant attempt to defend their team title from last year, but came up a few points short. The truth is the Jaguars were hurt badly by the DQ of their 4x200m relay at the Sectionals meet a week earlier, but they still had a chance to win the meet. They scored with three runners in the 100m, including a state runner-up finish by Jace Coleman. Zahir Raheem was consistent in the 800m, also finishing as the state runner-up. With a win in the 4x100m relay and a 5th place finish in the 300m hurdles by Kwabena Flowers, Stephenson was poised to make a run at the title. If they finished 1st and 2nd in the 200m they'd have a shot to win it all with their stellar 4x400m relay team. But, Jace Coleman and Abubakar Diarrassouba finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the 200m, leaving them 11 points behind Marist with one event to go and no way to catch the War Eagles.
There aren't too many track programs more impressive than the Jefferson Dragons. Jefferson was led by two individuals this year - Sammy Brown racked up thirteen points for the team in the short sprints and the long jump, and helped the 4x100m relay snag 5th. But, it was Matthew Schroeder who was one of the stars of the meet. Schroeder won the 1600m run easily, while his teammate, Ben Davis, finished 5th for the Dragons. Schroeder came back strong to win the 800m in 1:55. Additionally, Schroeder anchored the 4x800m relay to a strong 2nd place finish. Earlier in the meet Adam Henley pulled out 4th in the pole vault. Altogether the Dragons came away from Albany with 54 points and a 3rd place trophy.
Few stars shine brighter than Chance Cross. The senior from North Oconee must've been disappointed after an 11th place finish in the high jump. He didn't look back as he racked up impressive wins in the 100m, 200m, and 400m. That first place finish in the 200m actually secured the team win for Marist, so the War Eagles are grateful for Chance. Only two other teammates from North Oconee scored at the meet, including a state championship for John Harris in the pole vault, and a 7th place finish for Drake Dalton in the same event. It was all enough for the Titans to take home a 4th place team finish.
Performance of the Meet: Chance Cross, 200m (21.33)