Mill Creek Boys will be back to try to defend their title in the 800m Sprint Medley Relay this year
Meet Preview: 14th Annual Porter Steel Big Orange Relays
The Porter Steel Big Orange Relays are back with their 14th installment, and we are once again set to be treated to some spectacular racing courtesy of teams from a multitude of different classifications. This meet has become one of the premier relay meets in Georgia, featuring a unique slate of events both contested and uncontested at the State Meet. Perhaps it'll serve as a measuring stick as we approach the midpoint of the season, or perhaps it'll help teams determine probable spots for late and post-season events. Either way, it'll be a fun one, so let's get to it!
Shuttle Hurdle Relay:
Girls: This is always a fun event which looks pretty crazy on the track if you've never seen it done before. Kids are running at each other and not passing a baton but rather almost 'tagging' in the next competitor. The current #11 all-class hurdler is featured here in Mill Creek's Amarachi Chukwu along with another stud in Peachtree Ridge's Ron-Niah Wright.
Boys: For the boys, this could be a nice battle between region foes Brookwood and Parkview. Brookwood features Bryce Dopson while Parkview features Keonte Knight. Both have performed well at the State level, but the depth of the hurdling corps will be tested in this relay.
Sprint Relays (4x200m, 800 SMR, 1600 SMR, 4x100m, 4x400m)
Relays at a relay meet are always tough to predict because you're never quite sure which relays will be loaded up. Athletes can only compete in 4 events... but technically they can be entered in as many as they want to be so long as they only compete 4 times... even so, let's look at some of the projected seed times and see if we can make sense of who's doing what...
4x200m: The first sprint event is the 4x200m, and with it being a State-contested event now, teams could be testing themselves in an early March meet. Peachtree Ridge gets the nod at the top so far with a season-best 1:45.36. Athletes like Daylin Gibson and Savannah Lee could be featured here for The Ridge, but North Gwinnett entered themselves just a second back at 1:46.60. Can they contend here? On the boys' side, it could come down to Gwinnett rivals Parkview and Meadowcreek as both have clocked sub-1:30 efforts. Look for Isaac Jackson, Jeremiah Shaw, and Teshaun Bell to make appearances here (and elsewhere) for Meadowcreek and Elijah Jenkins, Khyair Spain, and Sean Ferguson for Parkview.
800m SMR (100, 100, 200, 400): Following a lengthy break thanks to the 4x1600m will be the 800m SMR, one of 2 hybrid sprint events contested at the Big Orange Relays. Mill Creek is the top seed here with an unofficial time of 1:55.95. Kirsten Wright and Arianna Cox-Cole are likely needed on this relay for them to win, but it should be noted that Parkview and Berkmar have both already contested this event earlier in the season... could a single race experience be a difference maker? The same can be said in the boys' contest. Parkview is the only team with a time, but 4 teams are ranked ahead with unofficial times. Look for Jaiden Patterson, Solomon Miller, and Trey Walker (Mill Creek) to lead the on-paper favorites.
Throwers' 4x100m: If you've ever been to a meet where there is a Throwers' 4x100m contested, then you know that this truly is the stuff of legend. Folklore. Mythology. People still talk about the first ever Throwers' 4x100m which was (probably) contested thousands of years ago when Crossfit and Peloton were preceded by more pure training tactics like throwing boulders and repeatedly lifting the corpses of their enemies. We've since gotten more sophisticated (re: soft) in 2023, and there are 5 girls' teams and 9 boys' entered in the Throwers 4x100m which IS a scored event at the Big Orange Relays. Bragging rights and custom batons run aplenty here, and the Throwers' 4x100m is no exception.
4x100m: So far this season, Mill Creek's girls have the edge at 49.14 while intra-county rival Peachtree Ridge has also squeaked below 50 seconds. Mill Creek's boys should have a hotly contested battle with Parkview and Peachtree Ridge as all 3 are 43.20 and below. These are auto-seeded though based on season's best performance, and the 4x100m, which is traditionally near the beginning of a track meet, is contested towards the end of this track meet. Will some teams conserve their sprinters for a State-contested race, or will they attempt to go quickly in an alternate event?
1600m SMR (200, 200, 400, 800): The 1600m SMR will be followed by the true keynote event of the night (the 4x100m Throwers' Relay... duh) and the traditional 4x100m, so it'll sort of be a matter of what the longer sprinters have left. Have they already been called upon to race shorter stuff earlier in the evening? The only 3 girls' teams who seeded themselves here are North Gwinnett, Mill Creek, and Johns Creek while a 36 second spread exists between the top boys' seed (East Paulding) and the lowest seed - making this one a tough one to predict. The big question is if the sprinters 'borrow' a distance runner for the 800, or do they have a sprinter brave enough to attack the 800, an event many coaches argue is just a long sprint anyway? This is a fun hybrid event, and it'll be fun to watch Friday evening.
4x400m: All roads lead to the 4x400m. So far, North Gwinnett and Parkview lead things with times of 4:19 and 4:20 respectively for the ladies while Peachtree Ridge, Meadowcreek, and Brookwood have all gone under 3:30, but we can expect those times to drop, especially if the team title is on the line.
Distance Relays (4x1600m, 4x800m)
Every distance coach and distance athlete loves a competitive 4x1600m, and this event is among the highlights of the Porter Steel Big Orange Relays. The 4x800m added a level of difficulty in point-spreading at the State Meet as coaches were left scratching their heads trying to field a team of 4 distance runners racing 'down' to the 800m, 4 sprinters racing 'up' to the 800m, or assembling a hybrid of sorts. What used to be an event more for recreation at relay meets is now evermore important as a State event.
4x1600m: St. Pius X (22:00) and West Forsyth (22:20) enter as the on-paper favorites for the ladies' 4x1600m. Perennial distance powerhouse St. Pius X will be fielding a competitive squad which will be led by the duo of Zoe Garcia and Hannah Schemmel, both capable of running sub 5:20 which nobody would complain about in mid-March. West Forsyth on the other hand may not have the firepower at the top, but could they have more depth? They've got 4 girls who have run 5:41 or faster and should be led by Calli Crawford and Sophie Kyle. Similar to West Forsyth, the Lady Broncos, if full strength, will be top heavy in Allie Wardle and Macy Felton but will need assistance at 3 and 4. For the boys: Brookwood (18:20) enters as the on-paper favorite. Some bad luck in November didn't do this team justice, and this could be a fun opportunity for them to get some much-deserved exposure. Look for Carter Dehnke and Charlie Thomas to lead the way for the Broncos. West Forsyth is also seeded at 18:20 and has 2 athletes in Parker Chase (4:25) and Diego Fernandes (4:26) that have run faster than Brookwood's best, but will they have the depth at #4 to hang tight heading into the anchor leg? Greater Atlanta Christian has a strong duo too in Josiah Asfaw and Addison Alsobrook; will they have enough to contend? Mill Creek has surefire ace in Luke Kalarickal but do not have anyone else sub-4:40 at this point; expect that to change tomorrow. Parkview is in a similar boat with David Garcia at the helm and will need help from supporting castmates including Kadin McAllister.
4x800m: We've got a mixed bag of teams deciding to double up their fastest runners and other teams that are choosing to rest their top kids and only run them once. Brookwood's ladies appear to be going full throttle as they've seeded themselves at 10:00, so be on the lookout for the aforementioned studs along with Trinity Thurman and Kayci Jordan. North Gwinnett, St. Pius X, and Parkview will try to keep pace. Parkview, Greater Atlanta Christian, and Chamblee appear to be pining for the top spot on the male side of the equation as all 3 are seeded sub-8:30. If Chamblee's crew is fresh having not run the 4x1600m, perhaps they have an advantage here.
Interesting with this relay-style meet is that the field events are scored as a relay, too. All 3 competitors' best marks will be added up and given a relay "score" for an overall team score in each event. It creates a fun dichotomy of 'studs carrying' vs. 'depth prevailing' in a meet like this.
Long Jump: This appears to be a battle between Gwinnett rivals Brookwood and Mill Creek. Consistent stud Chloe Perryman headlines the field by over 2 feet but will need help from Renee Attimu and Hailey Demessa. Mill Creek's Arianna Cox-Cole leads MC Baby and will look to Destiny Pelham and Kionna Chance for support. Mill Creek's men could win this one in a route as they tout the top 2 in Joseph Alexander and Demarko Lawler, Jr. Langston Agee rounds things out for Mill Creek, giving them 3 seeds over 20 feet. Parkview (Elijah Jenkins and Donovan Paris) and Brookwood (Lee Niles and Jaylen Jordan) will try to keep pace.
Triple Jump: Adrianna Pelham has the clear career-best advantage here at over 38 feet, but she is 6+ feet clear of her 2 teammates. Meanwhile, Brookwood's Chloe Perryman and Hailey Demessa will look to put the pressure on, making the ever-important 3rd athlete even more so. It should be noted that Chamblee also has 2 jumpers over 34 feet in Sarah Schroeder and Kate Sarago, so watch out for Chamblee as they try to pull off the upset. The boys' Triple Jump event is wide open with Johns Creek the only team featuring 2 boys who have gone over 40 feet (Jayden Dykes and Jaron Green). Chamblee's Elijah Powell and Mill Creek's Demarko Lawler, Jr. lead the individual outlook.
High Jump: This and Pole Vault may be the two most difficult events to be able to roll 3 deep in, and this meet showcases that difficulty. Peachtree Ridge's Mya Hines, Brookwood's Christalyn Johnson, Johns Creek's Amrit Rehal, and Mill Creek's Landyn Williams are the only athletes over 5-0, so the trick here could be getting a second athlete at 5-0 or better to secure the victory. Mill Creek will show off their 2 6+ foot high jumpers in Tyson Vassell and Joseph Alexander, making them a tough team to beat in this event.
Pole Vault: Mill Creek's Victoria Freeland, Peachtree Ridge's Eva Marie Eaton, Parkview's Emilee Easley, and Chamblee's Emi Sarago have all gone 10 feet or better in their careers and will look to lead their teams to the relay victory. Mill Creek's boys may just be too good in this event as Timothy Lamb (13-9), John Pennebaker (13-0), and Hagan Schamberger (11-6) command 3 of the top 6 seeds.
Shot Put: Depth vs. Stud power could determine this one as Mill Creek's Arianna Cox-Cole has chunked the cannon ball 34-5.5 but is nearly 10 feet higher than her closest teammate. Brookwood, on the other hand, has Zoey Watkins and Hannah Reynolds ranked 3rd and 4th which could make it difficult if MC can't close the gap. Similarly, Jack Woods (54-2.25) of SPX is almost 20 feet clear of his closest teammate. Parkview may have the most depth here as they feature Cortez Smith, Joshua Haynes, and Khyair Spain all over 44 feet.
Discus: Madison Jenkins of Peachtree Ridge may provide the necessary stud power for The Ridge to walk away unscathed from this event as she is over 14 feet clear of her closest opposition. For the boys, Parkview may overwhelm the field with their depth as they will compete 3 of the top 7 throwers with Caleb Hamilton leading the way for them. Maison James (Meadowcreek) leads the individual charge.Overall, this meet is still 2 months away from the State Meet, but mid-March is right around when questions can begin to get answered. When the dust settles, could we see some Class contenders emerge? Come out to the Big Orange Jungle to find out!