Meet Preview: 2023 Jerry Arnold Challenge

Jack Woods from St. Pius X will make his season debut in the shot put this year at Jerry Arnold

Jerry Arnold Challenge Meet Preview

by Coach Gambrell

The Jerry Arnold Challenge hosted by Mill Creek is one of the first real big meets of the season where teams are carrying a full squad. Winter sports have concluded and teams have had a couple of months of training under their legs. The competitiveness of the meet has ebbed and flowed in past years but this year looks to provide some exciting races!

*due to the unpredictable nature of the relays, I decided not to preview those races*

Long Jump

The boys long jump looks to be a 4 way battle between Joseph Alexander of Mill Creek, Will Frederick of Marietta, AJ Cheek of Mountain View and Jhace Justice of Cherokee Bluff. Alexander and Frederick both have PR's of 23-0 from last season which shows they have the potential to jump far, but they have not seen those marks yet this season. Frederick has jumped 21-2 already this season which gives him the slight advantage. While Justice has the lower PR out of the group, he has jumped the farthest of the season with a jump of 21-5 which puts him clearly in the mix to win the event on Saturday. Cheek is a 2022 state finalist and has the 3rd best PR of the group. He has jumped 20-9.5 this season so he will also factor in to the mix.

The girls long jump is a little different with the top 3 seeds all having jumped over 17-0 THIS SEASON! With the meet set up having prelims and finals, we could see some big jumps on Saturday. Ava Kitchings of GAC comes in as the top seed having jumped 17-8.25 this season. Right behind her is Arianna Cox-Cole of Mill Creek who has jumped 17-5 and will be looking to defend her home pit. The 3rd seed is Marie Tchocksi of Dacula who has jumped 17-3 this season. There are a few other athletes who will look to shake it up in the finals, but it looks like a jump of 17+ feet is what it will take to win on Saturday.

Triple Jump

The boys triple jump features a couple of familiar face from the long jump in Joseph Alexander of Mill Creek and Jhace Justice of Cherokee Bluff who are the #1 and #2 seeds respectively with PR's of 45-5.5 and 44-5.5. Alexander has not triple jumped this season while Justice jumped his PR a couple weeks ago so he might be a little sharper. But being that the meet is at Mill Creek, Alexander will be looking to defend the home pit which we know can give an athlete an edge. Sean Hughes of White County is a distant 3rd seed at 43-7. He has jumped 41-9 already this season and with the level of competition Saturday and the finals format, he will be looking to not only improve upon his season's best but also his lifetime best.

The girls triple jump could see a 1-2 sweep from 2 athletes from the same school, Dacula. Marie Tchoski and Danah Nembhard have both jumped over 38-0 this season and are the only 2 athletes entered over 38-0. To put this in perspective, we only saw 22 girls in the entire state clear 38-0 last year and most of them did this at the end of the season. To see 2 38-0 jumpers at the same meet, from the same school at the beginning of March, is crazy. Doubling back from the long jump, Marie Tchoski is the top seed at 38-6 which she jumped a few weeks ago, while teammate Danah Nembhard is close behind in 38-0.5. Two athletes who will be looking to break up the 1-2 finish will be Adrianna Pelham from Mill Creek and Kennedy Colbert from Marietta. Pelham has a PR of 37-6 and Colbert has a PR of 37-2. While these athletes have not reached these marks this season, the potential is there and with the finals format, they might benefit from a few more jumps.


The class of the field for the boys discus looks to be Max Herman of Marietta. Max is the 2021 7A discus State Champion and the 2022 Runner Up. He has a PR of 169-2 which is almost 28 feet further than the next best entry. While on paper, Herman looks to be the clear favorite, we all know that seeds mean nothing and there is a reason we do not award points based off PRs. Athletes have to show up and produce. Other athletes looking to challenge Herman will be Maison James of Meadowcreek and Donningtun Walters of Mill Creek. Both athletes have PRs over 140-0 with Walters throwing his PR last week.

The girls discus competition looks to be between 2 athletes, Neely Rogan of Apalachee and Noelle Igbraese of Dacula. Both athletes have PRs over 135-0. One athlete looking to shake up the rankings is Lilly Rowan from Lanier Christian Academy. Her PR is only 132-11 but she has thrown that this season. Current season performances show that Lily could easily be the top seed.

Pole Vault

The boys pole vault looks to be a very competitive early season competition with 6 boys seeded at 13-0 or higher. The top seed is Will Frederick of Marietta who just jumped a PR of 14-0 at his home meet on Wednesday. Close behind him at 13-9 is Timothy Lamb of Mill Creek. Maybe home pit advantage will give him an edge. Ryan McKinney of Greenbrier is the 3rd seed at 13-6 followed by a slew of boys entered at 13-0. The pole vault can be an unpredictable event, so with this many seeds all within 1 foot of each other, we are in for a very competitive event on Saturday.

The girls pole vault is equally as competitive with 7 girls seeded at 10-0 or higher. Victoria Freeland of Mill Creek comes in as the top seed at 10-10 which she jumped a couple weeks ago. Ella Blair of White County and Ava Moon Oconee County are close behind at 10-6 which they have also jumped this year. Looking to add their names to the mix for a podium finish will be Mary McLoughlin of Dunwoody, Ansley Cho of Marist, Addison Dempsey of William and Reed Academy and Mia Perea Berdiel of Marist.

High Jump

The boys high jump features 3 boys seeded at 6-0 or higher followed. Tyson Vassell and Alexander Joseph both of Mill Creek come on as the top seeds at 6-2 and 6-0 respectively. Looking to break up the Mill Creek duo is Josh Screen of Marist who comes in with a PR of 6-0. Behind these top 2 seeds are 6 boys who are all seeded at 5-10. Vertical jumps can be unpredictable at times, so expect this competition to be one of the closer ones of the day.

Not to be outdone by the boys, the girls high jump competition looks to be even more competitive with 11 girls seeded at 5-0 or higher. Leading the charge is Danah Nembhard of Dacula who has a PR of 5-8 and will be doubling back from the triple jump. Following closely is Josie Collins of Athens Academy at 5-7 and Maci Shelnut of White County at 5-6. Shelnut's teammate Claire Beckman comes in a close 4th seed at 5-2 along with Liza Love of St. Pius. Behind these athletes are 6 athletes all seeded at 5-0. In order to walk away with a medal on Saturday it looks like you will have to clear 5-0 or higher, which is pretty stout for early March.

Shot Put

In the boys shot put, Jack Woods of St. Pius leads the field by 5+ feet with a seed of 53-3. He has not thrown this year, but the 2022 5A State Runner Up will look to start off his senior season strong with a statement win at a well known meet with a lot of tradition. Fellow seniors, all with seeds over 47-0, Emanuel Marshall of Mill Creek, Max Herman of Marietta, O'Keefe McKinney of Marist and Yousef Mohamed of Greenbrier will all look to challenge Woods for the top spot.

The girls shot put looks to be a repeat of the discus with Neely Rogan of Apalachee and Noelle Igberaese of Dacula once again being the top 2 seeds at 39-11 and 39-8.5. These two athletes have PRs over 3 feet further than the next closest athlete. Looking to have a big day will be Kameryn Hanon and Anderson Bowe who both have PRs over 36-0. They will need to have a big day to break in to the top 2.

100/110 Hurdles

The boys 110 hurdles features 4 boys seeded under 16.00. The top spot looks to be a race between Judah Hobbs of Oconee County who comes in as the top seed in 15.01, which he ran last year. Jorden Reddick of Marietta is close behind in 15.11 which he ran last weekend. Reddick seems to be a little sharper at this point in the season which will make for a great race come Saturday. Blake Williams of Dunwoody and Ishmeal Neblett of Discovery HS both have seed times under 16.0 seconds and will look to pick up some hardware if the top 2 guys stumble.

In the girls 100 hurdles it looks like the field will be chasing Hannah Cheek of Cherokee Bluff HS who comes in with a seed of 14.81, the only athlete seeded under 15.0 seconds. Dallas guy of Dacula, Alexus Knox of Franklin County, Ava Moon of Oconee County and Amarachi Chukwu of Mill Creek all come in with PRs under 16.0 seconds. Cheek has not run a hurdle race yet this season, so if she is not in top form, expect one of these athletes to steal the show.


The boys 100 features 8 boys seeded at 11.10 seconds or better. The top 3 seeds on paper are Austin McGee of Athens Academy, Cam Wilson of White County and Amarieon Kinyon of Central Gwinnett who both come in with seed times under 11.0. Kinyon has to be the favorite as he is the only athlete in the field who has broken 11.0 seconds this season running 10.99 earlier this week. Close behind him is Solomon Miller of Mill Creek who ran 11.02 a couple weeks ago. No matter how you look at it, if the weather is favorable Saturday, it looks like a sub 11.0 performance is what it will take to win the boys 100 and we could see multiple boys under the 11.0 second barrier.

Destiny Jenkins headlines the girls 100m dash with a seed time of 12.05. Jenkins is the 2022 5A state runner up in the event so she has proven she knows how to run well on the big stage. Looking to challenge her and add a signature win to their resume will be Josie Collins of Athens Academy seeded at 12.40, Nevaeh Shedrick of Lithia Springs at 12.45 and Nevaeh Sanders of Grayson at 12.49. Shedrick and Sanders look to be a little sharper with Shedrick running right off her PR at 12.47 a couple weeks ago and Sanders running her PR at the beginning of February. Jenkins is still the class of the field but expect these athletes to give her a push.


In the boys 1600, there are 5 boys seeded under 4:30. Leading the pack is Jared Fortenberry of Marietta at 4:15. Behind him are Jackson Scruggs of Athens Academy at 4:21, Luke Kalarickal of Mill Creek at 4:23, Ian Gaffney of Marist at 4:27 and Aaron Brodrick of Oconee County at 4:28. While most of these athletes have not run their PR this season, they have all run 4:30 or faster. If they work together we could easily see the winning time be in the low 4:20s, if not faster.

The girls 1600 pits a well known front runner in Claire Shelton of Dunwoody versus a not so well known newcomer in Mary NeSmith of Marietta. Shelton is the class of the field and the junior from Dunwoody has proven herself as one of the top runners in Georgia for a couple years now. Coming off a PR of 4:58 a couple weeks ago, she is the athlete to beat on Saturday. While NeSmith might not have the experience of Shelton, she has burst on to the high school scene with a 3rd place finish at state in cross country and PRs of 5:03 and 11:03 already this season. Looking to throw their names in to the mix will be Kate Selover of Marist and Morgan Collins of GAC who both have PRs under 5:10. They will need big PRs to challenge for the win but we run the race for a reason!


In the boys 400m dash, Methias Carter of Mountain View is the one to beat. He comes in seeded 48.13 which is almost 2 seconds faster than the next fastest athlete. He has not run the 400 this year but ran 11.61 and 23.34 last weekend. Looking to challenge for the win, and possibly break 50.0 for the first time will be Zavier Davis of Discovery and Chad Payne of Lithia Springs. Davis has run 50.03 already this season and Payne has run 50.60, also this season. The battle up front looks to be close and it almost guaranteed that it will take a sub 50.0 performance to bring home the gold medal Saturday.

On paper, the girls 400m dash looks to be one of the more competitive races of the day with 6 athletes seeded under 1:00. Lailah Green comes in as the top seed at 54.54 which is from last year. She has run 58.44 this season so she looks to be in decent form. Danielle Isom of Marietta has a slower PR but has run faster already this season clocking 58.02 last weekend and could be considered the favorite based on current season form. Kyla Ramey of South Gwinnett, Bren Weterrings of Dunwoody, Gabriells Lankford of Lithia Springs and Madison Walker of Grayson have all broken 1:00 before so expect these athlete to be close on the heels of the top 2.

300 hurdles

The boys 300 hurdles looks to be Judah Hobbs' race to lose. The senior from Oconee County has already ran 40.44 this season which is the fastest time in the field. 2 athletes who have PRs under 43 seconds who will look to challenge Hobbs are Jorden Reddick of Marietta who boasts a PR of 42.18 and Raif Njie of Central Gwinnett who boasts a PR of 42.20. After these athletes are a host of other boys who will be looking to challenge for a podium finish and a sub 43 second performance.

Just like the boys race, the girls race features an athlete who is seeded almost 2 seconds ahead of the next fastest athlete. Akhaila Makenna of Marietta comes in to the weekend with a PR of 45.83. The 2022 7A state finalist ran this PR last weekend at Archer. Makenna will look to continue her strong senior season establishing herself as one of the top 300 hurdlers in the state. Looking to spoil the party up front will be Dallas Guy of Dacula who has a PR of 47.84 and Hannah Cheek of Cherokee Bluff who has a PR of 48.64. After these athletes are a slew of girls in the 49 second range who will look to break that 49 second barrier for the first time to grab a podium spot.


On paper, the boys 800 looks to be a race between 3 athletes. Jack Baltz of Marietta comes in with the top seed at 1:58.54. Ian Gaffney of Marist is close behind in 1:58.88 and Devin Clark of Marietta is the 3rd seed at 1:59.45. These 3 all come in with PRs under 2:00 but Gaffney is the only athlete to have broken 2:00 this season so he has to be considered the close favorite. After these 3, the next closest seed is at 2:03 with another 3 boys seeded at 2:04.

For the girls 800 on paper it looks like it is Morgan Collins' race to lose. The senior from GAC comes in with a seed time of 2:14 that she ran last year at the state meet. She might not be in quite this form in early March but has run 2:21 this season. Ruby Little comes in as the second seed at 2:19 and has also run 2:21 this season. Teammate Kate Selover has run 2:23 this season so will be in the mix up front challenging for a Marist 1-2 finish. These 3 have the top seeds, all under 2:20, but will look to be challenged by Ella Stone of St. Pius, Brooklyn McVicker of Marietta and Stella Chambliss of Marist.


Shavique Bascus of Clarke Central is the athlete to beat in the boys 200m dash. He has a PR of 21.29 and has run 21.99 already this season. He is the only athlete in the field who has run under 22.0 seconds, so he will be the one everyone is chasing. Zavier Davis of Discovery has already run 22.14 this season and looks primed to break the 22 second barrier soon. Whether that is this weekend or not, we will have to wait and see. Amarieon Kinyon is a favorite in the 100 already having run 10.99 this season. His PR in the 200 came a couple weeks ago at 22.20. Kinyon has the speed to compete with the best, it is just a matter of strength and if he can hold on the last 50m. I expect Kinyon to be up front early, lets see if he can hold on at the end.

The girls 200 will be a battle of strength vs. speed. Lailah Green of Discovery is the top seed in the 400 while Destiny Jenkins of Lithia Springs is the top seed in the 100. These two athletes are the only athletes with PRs under 25.0 seconds. Here we will see if Green's strength will reign superior to the speed of Jenkins or vice versa.


The boys 3200 is not as deep as it has been in past years. Jared Fortenberry of Marietta comes in as the top seed with a PR of 9:14. Behind him is Luke Kalarickal of Mill Creek who will be looking to defend his home track with a PR of 9:24. After them there is a slight gap to Beck Wolf-Hardy of Clarke Central who has a PR of 9:45. And slightly behind him is Dominic Noel of St. Pius with a PR of 9:54. These are the only athletes in the field who have broken 10:00 for the 3200 so I expect the winner to come from this group. After them there is a host of boys seeded in the low 10 minute range who will be battling it out for a podium spot.

In the girls 3200, Claire Shelton of Dunwoody is looking to double back from the 1600 and make it 2 for 2 on victories for the day. She is the only athlete with a PR under 11:00 and the next athlete is seeded 20 seconds behind her. I expect Shelton to control the race from the beginning. We will have to wait and see if she takes the charge from the beginning, chasing a fast time, or settling back and racing for the win. Looking to challenge for the top spot and a big PR is Millie Quick of Greenbrier. Quick enters the meet with a PR of 11:17 but has only run 12:03 this season. The potential is there, we just have to wait and see where her fitness is at after a couple weeks since her last 3200. After these two, there are 3 other girls who are seeded under 11:30. They are Zoe Garcia of St. Pius, Kristal McQueen of Marietta and Jewell Wells of Mill Creek. This race is hard to predict after Shelton up front due to it being early season and not a lot of athletes have raced a competitive 3200. Hopefully we see these athletes work together Saturday to chase some fast times