Xzaviah Taylor will look to help propel Southwest Dekalb to the 4A state title
This week we're going to preview the upcoming track and field seasons for each GHSA Classification. We've got the boys and girls projected team scores and season previews below for class 4A.
Trying to predict in early February who will win a state meet in May is a fools' errand; it's difficult enough to try to predict the meet after the sectionals have been completed! That will not stop us at MileSplit from trying, though. I am primarily using last season's times as predictors, as not enough athletes compete in indoor meets to make any judgments. It's expected that these predictions will be at least a little wrong by the end of the season, but hopefully this article will give a solid overview of the general trends and favorites to follow throughout the season. Good luck to all you athletes!
Boys Team Scores
|2||Stephenson High School||56||20||0||4||16||0||16|
|3||Holy Innocents' Episcopal School||54||6||30||0||8||0||10|
|5||Starrs Mill High School||45||0||1||0||22||14||8|
|6||Whitewater High School||40.5||2||16||0||10||0||12|
|7||Stockbridge High School||29.5||13||1||0||0||0||15|
|8||East Forsyth High School||26||0||26||0||0||0||0|
|11||Perry High School||20.5||7||0||8||0||0||5|
Just like in cross country season this year, 4A should be much deeper this year with the reshuffled GHSA rankings. On the boys' side, an incredible four returning state champions will compete against each other for the chance to defend their title in May, and several other schools will look to jump into the mix as well. Last year's 2A champion Pace Academy appears to have graduated much of the talent that led to their second straight track and field title, but the other three returning champions retain many of their heavy hitters.
The on-paper favorites for 2023 are last year's 5A champions, Southwest Dekalb. Coach Bob Mullen knows how to prepare his team well for the state meet, and Southwest has won three out of their last seven possible state titles. Their strength is in the relays, where they swept the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 at state last season. They complement their relay strength with some standout individuals as well. Ali Dargan could be one of the state's top 100/200 runners as a junior, and Isaiah Taylor is a monster in both hurdle events who will be gunning for two Georgia state records this year. And don't forget about Xzaviah Taylor, who was 3rd in the 300-meter hurdles and 400 meters at 5A state last season.
Holy Innocents' (1A Private) and Westminster (3A) are the other two defending state champions in 4A this season. Distance running is a strength for both of these schools. Holy Innocents' returns Joe Sapone as one of Georgia's top all-classification returners in the 800 and 1600. Ryan Kelley should be a scorer in the 800 and 1600 as well. HIES also projects to have scorers in the sprints and the pole vault. Westminster will be battling Holy Innocents' in the distance events with XC standouts Joseph Jacquot and Esfan Daya in the 1600 and 3200. The Wildcats also have Phillips Moore as 4A's top returner in the shot put and discus throw, and they could score big points in the 4x800.
Another school that could find itself atop the podium in 4A this season is Stephenson, which just missed out on the 4A championship last year and will be gunning for more. The Jaguars' strengths lie in the sprints and jumps, and they'll likely be a major contender for the shorter relays as well. Senior Jace Coleman ran 10.75/21.50 in the 100 and 200 at state last year and is 4A's top returner in both events. Starr's Mill will be very much in the hunt as well with one of the most well-rounded teams in the state. They could score points in several distance events, several jumping events, both throwing events, and in the longer relays. Other 4A teams to watch include Whitewater (7th in 5A last year), Stockbridge (12th in 5A), East Forsyth (5th in 3A), and Hampton (8th in 4A).
Other athletes to keep an eye on this season for 4A boys: John Harris of North Oconee comes in as the defending champion and top returner in the pole vault with a mark of 13' 6". Tito Alofe of Starrs Mill will be one of the favorites in both the triple jump (46' 11") and high jump (6' 7"), but he'll have company in the triple jump with Hampton's Cameron Goggins (46' 3.75") and in the high jump with Heritage's JD Black (6' 8"). Leading East Forsyth's charge in track will be distance stud Alex Arrambide, who has the fastest returning mark by far in the 3200 and a close second to Sapone in the 800 and 1600. Finally, Shelton Lewis of Stockbridge is the defending 5A state champion in the 400, running under 51 seconds all nine times he competed last year and dipping under 49 seconds four times.
Girls Team Scores
|2||Stockbridge High School||71||17||2||3||0||18||31|
|4||Baldwin High School||36.1||10||0||0||16||4||6|
|7||Stephenson High School||31||5||0||6||6||6||8|
|8||West Laurens High School||26.1||0||0||8||0||18||0|
|9||Westover High School||23||9||0||9||0||1||4|
|12||Cherokee Bluff High School||18||1||4||0||6||0||7|
|14||Woodland HS Stockbridge||17.6||6||0||0||0||0||11|
|15||Spalding High School||17||8||0||4||0||0||5|
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That phrase comes to mind when looking at the favorites for the 4A girls' track and field championships. The last two seasons combined, Westminster has scored an incredible 252 points at the state meet. This year, they are again the favorites and could break the 100-point barrier for a third straight season. Although Westminster has moved up from 3A to 4A, they no longer have to deal with Sandy Creek or GAC, their two main rivals from 3A the past two years. Instead, a brand-new cast of contenders will be attempting to take down the Wildcats, especially Stockbridge (competed in 5A in 2022) and Druid Hills (4A).
Westminster comes into the season looking strong in a few different categories, including distance, jumping, and hurdles. Reigning 3A 1600 and 4A XC champion Palmer Walstad could score major points in the distance events, regardless of which ones she ends up competing in at state. All-around standout junior Grace Smith might be the highest individual scorer at 4A girls' meet. She ranks among the top two returners for the 100m dash, 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles, and the long jump. Coach Gary Jones will need to be strategic in which events he uses this athlete and also consider potential relays in which Smith could help. Kelsey Chambers (high jump, long jump, and triple jump) and Madison Townsend (pole vault) will try to give Westminster a dominant score in the field events.
Stockbridge and Druid Hills appear to be the top competition for Westminster in 2023. Stockbridge is stocked with field event athletes who could contend for the state title. Daynejia Atkins is one of the top returning throwers in all of GA, with a monster discus throw PR of 142' 11" as a sophomore last season. In the sprints, Kirah Copeland will try to earn her first state championships in the 200 and 400. Stockbridge also had a fantastic group of relays from last season, but the jury remains on whether their relay strength will remain this season. Druid Hills will likely follow a similar script in their quest for a state title, with a heavy emphasis on sprints and relays. Druid Hills is led by Sanaa Frederick, the defending 4A champion in the 100 and 200. Sole Frederick and Jadyn Bolden will also try to score points in the sprinting events, and they will make Druid Hills one of the favorites in the sprinting relays as well.
After a thrilling battle for the cross country title this fall, North Hall and Pace Academy will again compete for points in distance races, this time on the track. For North Hall, Clodagh O'Bryant, Abi Moore, and Harleigh Smith should all contend for points in the distance events, and their 4x800 team will doubtless be tough to beat. For Pace Academy, Caroline Hood and Zahara Bernal (if she runs track) will lead their team in distance events. Hood is the defending 2A 1600 and 3200 state champion, and Bernal was a top-four finisher at the 4A XC state meet last fall.
Other potential contenders for the 4A state title include Baldwin, Stephenson, and West Laurens. Baldwin's strengths are in the sprints and hurdles, West Lauren's strengths are in the throws and jumps, while Stephenson has a more balanced attack with potential points across the board.Other athletes to keep an eye on this season for 4A girls: I am definitely excited to see how West Laurens senior MaKayla Register does in the discus and especially the shot put this season. She finished second in the discus and first in the shot put (by nearly two feet) at 4A state last season with a throw of 41' 4". Griffin's Zy Thompson comes in as the favorite in the high jump as she leapt 5' 6" or better on four separate occasions en route to the 5A state championship. The 400 is stacked in 4A this year with eight runners coming in with a PR under 58 seconds. Baldwin's Amilliana Simmons leads the way as she was clocked at a 55.83 early last season-we'll see if she can better that mark this year! Finally, Nafer Rapier, another Baldwin runner, will look to give Grace Smith a run for her money in both hurdle events this year. Rapier's returning PR ranks 11th all-classification in the 100m hurdles and 9th in the 300m hurdles