2023 Gail Devers Invitational Meet Preview

Kayleigh Stargell is one of the favorites at the star studded Gail Devers invitational this weekend

Gail Devers Invitational Meet Preview

by Coach Gambrell

Wow! This is all I could say after looking at entries for the first ever running of the Gail Devers Invitational. 36 teams and over 1300 athletes entered... We usually do not see this caliber of fields unless we are looking at a meet with some history like Jerry Arnold or Spring Break Showdown. This meet is also unique in that we are going to see top level competition across ALL events, not just in sprints or just in distance. So, without further ado, lets get to the preview!

Shot Put

The girls shot put looks to be the Christianne Akintayo show. The Archer junior has a seed that is 4 feet further than the next closest athlete with a seed of 43-11. While she has not thrown that far this season, she has reached a throw of 42-6.5. Behind Christianne, and a clear 2nd seed, is Noelle Igberaese of Dacula. Noelle has threw a PR of 39-10 a couple weeks ago up at Mill Creek and will look to break the 40 foot barrier for the first time on Saturday. Just like the girls, the boys shot put has a clear favorite in Nathan Efobi of South Forsyth. The South Forsyth senior comes in as the only athlete to have thrown over 50 feet. He finished 4th at last years 7A state meet and is looking primed to challenge for a state title this year having already thrown 52-0. Should he falter, Kemaje Bryant of Langston Hughes and O'Keefe McKinney of Marist will look to pick up the pieces. Kemaje has thrown 49-4 this season while O'Keefe is close behind at 48-7.75. 


Just like the shot put, the girls discus has a clear favorite in Noelle Igberaese of Dacula. Noelle has not lost a discus competition all season and it does not look like she will on Saturday. Her PR of 140-0 from Jerry Arnold a couple weeks ago puts her almost 20 feet ahead of the next closest athlete. And that athlete would be Anderson Bowe of Dunwoody. Anderson finished 5th at last years 7A state meet where she threw her PR of 120-10. She has only thrown 110-9 this season but we know the potential for a big throw is there. Christianne Akintayo of Archer is having a great junior season. She is the favorite in the shot put and is coming off a PR of 120-6 which she threw a couple weeks ago. Should Noelle stumble up top, Christianne will be looking to snag a gold medal to potentially go with a gold medal from the shot put. In the boys discus, it looks like we could see a good competition between Cameron Moore of Maynard Jackson and James Young of Lowndes. Both athletes have thrown PRs this season over 150-0 with Cameron having the slight advantage of 158-4 to James' 153-6.

Pole Vault

The pole vault is shaping up to be a strong competition with 4 girls entered over 10-0. Emily Miner of Archers HS comes in as the favorite with a PR of 11-3 and the only girl in the field who has cleared 11-0. Victoria Freeland of Mill Creek has been over 10-0 in all 3 of her meets this season with a PR of 10-10 from early February. If the weather cooperates we could see a battle for the top spot that exceeds 11-0. Should either of the top 2 girls falter, Mary McLoughlin of Dunwoody and Mia Perea Berdiel of Marist will look to snag a medal with both of those girls having already cleared 10-0 this season. The boys pole vault is similar to the girls pole vault where we have two 7A foes who will go at it. Timothy Lamb of Mill Creek has the edge with a PR of 14-3.25 which he cleared a couple weeks ago. Right behind him is Will Frederick of Marietta HS with a PR of 14-0. What makes this interesting is that Lamb has the higher PR at 14-3.25 but he has only done that one time this season. His next best performance is down at 13-0. Will on the other hand, has been a little more consistent. He has cleared 14-0 at 2 different meets and has a second best clearance at 13-6. Either way we are in for a good performance Saturday and a potential 7A state meet preview. 

Long Jump

The girls long jump boasts a field with 4 girls entered over 18-0. Chloe Perryman of Brookwood comes in as the slight favorite with a PR of 19-6 and a seasons best of 18-2. While Chloe has not jumped her PR this season, she is the only athlete in the field who has ever jumped over 19-0. Behind her is Lexi Kurtz of Marist with a PR of 18-10.75. While Lexi has not jumped yet this outdoor season, she did jump 18-4.5 last weekend at NBIN. The other 2 girls who have jumped over 18-0 are Kaylan McConnehead of Lonwdes and Rikki Carver of Lakeside Evans. I would give Kaylan the slight advantage as she has already cleared 18-0 this season. 

High Jump

The high jump is lead by Lowndes teammates Aryah Davis and Trinity Hunter seeded at 5-6 and 5-4 respectively. They have the chance to sweep the top 2 spots this weekend, just like they did at the 2022 7A state meet. Courtnet Nesbitt will be right in the mix as she has cleared 5-2 this season and is getting better each week. Trinity Bledsoe of Brookstone is the last athlete seeded at 5-2 or higher and will look to factor in the medal positions. The boys high jump looks to be a 3 person battle between Malachi Yehudah of Langston Hughes, Jackson Shutts of Creekview and Eric Barker of Shiloh HS. Malachi and Jackson come in having already cleared 6-4 and 6-3 respectively this season. Eric has a PR of 6-4.5 but has only cleared 6-0 this year at the one meet that he high jumped. After these athletes, there are a host of athletes entered at 6-2 and 6-0 that will be looking to grab a podium spot. 

Running Events

The running events will get started at 12:00pm and will be a rolling schedule after that. In order to save some time later in the meet, the running events will start with the girls 3200 and then proceed into a normal meet schedule. 

Girls 3200

The competition is going to heat up very quickly with the girls 3200. There is a good chance that it will take a sub 11:00 performance to bring home the victory, with 3 girls in the mix for the win.  Emma Stutzman from Pomona HS in Arvada, CO is by far the favorite. The NAU commit is a 2022 NXN individual qualifier and boasts a 2-mile PR of 10:17. She has not raced yet this outdoor season but ran a 5:18 indoors out in Golden, CO which converts to around a 5:09 at sea level. Chasing Emma will be Ruby Little of Marist and Mary Nesmith of Marietta. Ruby has only raced once this outdoor season running a 2:21 800 back in February. She ran a 5:03 mile during the indoor season and has a PR of 10:50 so I expect her to be up front early and pushing the pace. Mary Nesmith of Marietta has not broken 11:00 yet but comes in as the sharper of the 3 athletes having already run 2:18/5:00/11:03 this season. There is a good chance we see 3 athletes break 11:00 in the 3200 which I am not sure how many times this has happened at a meet in Georgia. 

Girls 100/Boys 110 Hurdles

Following the 3200 is the 100/110 hurdles. 3 girls entered boast seed times under 15.0 seconds. Kennedy Myers of Lakeside Evans, Dallas Guy of Dacula and Kayleigh Stargell of North Atlanta. Kennedy and Dallas have both run under 15.0 seconds this season running 14.86 and 14.76 respectively. Kayleigh has not raced the 100 hurdles yet this season but is coming off a PR in the 300 hurdles a couple weeks ago. I expect these 3 athletes to fill out the podium but we will have to wait until Saturday to see in what order. In the boys 110 hurdles, we have 4 athletes entered at 14.05 or faster. Josh Jones of Morgan County leads the field seeded at 13.74. He has only run 14.40 this season but the 2022 3A state champ will look to use this race to make positive steps towards defending his title. Isaiah Taylor of Southwest Dekalb comes in as the 2nd seed at 13.98. He has not raced yet this season so we will have to wait and see what kind of shape he is in. The 3rd and 4th seeds are teammates George Benjamin and Bryce Southerland of Shiloh HS. They ran 14.00w and 14.30w respectively last weekend at the MTFXCCGA Invitational on the fast McEachern track so expect these athletes to at the front pushing for the win.

Girls/Boys 100m

The girls 100 is a little hard to judge as athletes are entered at their PRs but many have not run those times yet this season. Janai Jones of Brookwood comes in as the favorite. She boasts a PR of 11.89, which is the fastest PR in the field, and has already run 12.18 this season, which is the fastest time run this season of any athlete in the field. The next fastest athlete this season is Jada Ray of Lakeside Evans. Jada has a PR of 12.21, which ran a couple weeks ago at the Atlanta Games. While she does not have one of the faster PRs of the field, Jada has shown she is one of the top runners in the field this season and I expect her to be pushing up at the front for the win. For me, Amina Jabbie of Lambert and Kaedreon Thomas of Lowndes round out the top 4 having run 12.37 and 12.40 this season. The boys 100 is similar to the girls in that a lot of athletes are entered at their PR but have not seen that time yet this season. Jace Coleman of Stephenson HS is entered as the top seed at 10.44 but has "only" run 11.04 this season which is good enough for the 6th fastest time in the field of times run this season. I say "only" because 11.04 is still fast, especially for mid-March. The athlete with the fastest time run this season, and my favorite to win the boys 100 is Shavique Bascus of Clarke Central. The NCA&T commit has already run 10.58 this season and boasts a PR of 10.49. Looking to give him chase will be Carl Murray from North Atlanta. Carl has run 10.67 this season and also boasts a 200 PR of 21.59 from last weekend showing he has the strength to hold on the last 30m. Behind them are the only 2 other boys who have broken the 11.0 second barrier this season: Chad Alexander of Archer HS (10.76) and Caleb Ramsey of North Atlanta (10.91). 

Girls/Boys 1600m

Doubling back from the 3200, where she is the favorite, is Emma Stutzman from Pomona HS. Emma is also the favorite in the 1600 with a PR of 4:53. Behind Emma, there are a host of girls who will be looking to challenge for a medal. Allie Wardle of Brookwood comes in with a PR of 5:10, which is 3rd fastest in the field. She has not run a 1600 yet this season but has run 2:21 for the 800. Nora Hart of Marietta and Jewel Wells of Mill Creek look to be poised to PR and bring home some hardware. Nora has run PRs this season of 2:27 and 5:16 while Jewel has run PRs of 5:18 and 11:19. Catherine Townsend of North Atlanta has the 2nd fastest PR in the field of 5:07 but has only run 5:21 this season. In the boys 3200, we have 13 boys seeded at 4:30 or faster. Sumner Kirsch of North Atlanta leads the field and is my favorite to win. He has run 1:55 and 4:18 already this season and is the only athlete in the field who has broken the 4:20 barrier this season. Chasing Sumner will be Steven McCartney of Archer who has run 1:57/4:22/9:30 this season. Steven has shown the mix of speed and strength needed to hang with the top runners and I expect him to be up at the front Saturday. Lambert teammates Kushan Patel, Jackson Hogsed and Reid Latimer will look to be up front pushing to break the 4:20 barrier after running 4:23, 4:26 and 4:26 already this season. Jameson Pifer of Collins Hill is running well this season having run 1:59 /4:24/9:41. He is clearly fit and I expect to see him up front early in the race.

Girls/Boys 400m

The girls 400m has 12 girls entered under 1:00. In my opinion, this is one of the must watch races on Saturday. The top 3 girls entered have all broken 57 seconds this season! Serena Tate of Brookwood leads the field having run 56.87 during indoor season back in January. This will be Serena's first race of the outdoor season but the 2022 7A State Champion will be looking to pick up where she left off last year in her quest to defend her title. Lailah Green of Discovery HS has run faster more recently. She ran 56.06 and 24.37 this past weekend at the MTFXCCGA Invitational. Lailah might be a little sharper than Serena which might help to give her the edge on Saturday. Yasmine Martin of South Cobb comes in as my 3rd seed and will look to challenge for a gold medal this weekend after running 56.45 a couple weeks ago. The boys 400m boasts 10 athletes with PRs under 50.0 seconds. Xzaviah Taylor of Southwest Dekalb comes in with the fastest PR at 48.07 which he ran last year. He has not raced yet this season, but with a PR closing in on the 47 second mark, he cannot be overlooked. Caden Therrell of North Paulding has run the fastest time of any athlete entered at 49.08 a couple weeks ago up in Rome. He has also run 11.16 this season in the 100m so he looks to have the right mix of strength and speed to bring home the win on Saturday. Behind him are 4 athletes who have all broken the 50.0 second barrier already this season: Christopher Coleman of South Gwinnett (49.11), Collin Seals of Stephenson HS (49.29), Zavier Davis of Discovery HS (49.73) and Rashad Smith of Maynard Jackson HS (49.79).

Girls/Boys 300m Hurdles

Kennedy Myers of Lakeside Evans enters as the top seed with a PR of 43.34 which she ran at the state meet last year. Her fastest time this season is 46.14 which ranks her 3rd fastest in the field. The top seed based on times run this season is Kayleigh Stargell of North Atlanta who has already run 43.42 this season at the Atlanta Games Invitational. Looking to upset the top PR and top time this season will be Akhaila Makenna of Marietta and Jordan Fort of Shiloh. Akhaila is having quite the senior season with PRs in the 100m dash, 100m hurdles and the 300m hurdles. Her 300m hurdle time of 45.83 ranks her 3rd fastest in the field. Jordan has a PR of 45.89 but has only run 46.90 this season. The potential is there as her fitness comes around. The top 2 seeds based on PR have not raced this outdoor season. Isaiah Taylor of Southwest Dekalb and Joshua Crum of Brookwood have PRs of 35.91 and 37.84 respectively. Josh Jones of Morgan County has a PR of 37.93 and ran 38.65 last weekend. Bryce Dopson of Brookwood has the fastest time run this season of all athletes entered at 38.06 which is also his PR. This race will be a mix of athletes starting their season who have some fast PRs and athletes who have a few races under their belt and might be a little sharper.

Girls/Boys 800m

In the girls 800, the clear favorite is Oluwatosin Awoleye of South Cobb who comes in with a PR and seasons best of 2:12 which is 6 seconds faster than the 2nd seeded Elizabeth Cowley of Brookstone who is seeded at 2:18. Oluwatosin has also run 58.12 in the 400 this year. Elizabeth has run 58.81 in the 400 as well which shows she has the speed to hang on for the first lap. We will have to wait and see how her fitness is at this point in the season to hang on the second lap. Mary Nesmith of Marietta will be doubling back from the 3200 from earlier in the meet and will try to hang on to improve upon her PR from earlier this season of 2:18. I also expect Kendall Johnson of Lowndes to be in the mix early as she has run similar to Elizabeth this season with times of 58.75 in the 400 and 2:21 in the 800. This race will be a battle of the speed of the middle distance athletes in Oluwatosin, Elizabeth and Kendall vs. the strength of a more distance focused athlete in Mary. The boys 800 is headlined by 3 boys seeded under 1:54. The top 2 seeds, Malachi Sanders of Marietta and Chance Jones of Dacula have not run the 800 yet this season. Malachi opened up his season this past Wednesday with a 50.16 run in the 400. Chance, a more distance minded 800m runner has run 4:33 for 1600. Even though these two have not run the 800 yet this season, this is a matchup between the 2022 7A and 6A state champions in this event. Because of this, they cannot be overlooked. Looking to steal the show will be Sumner Kirsch of North Atlanta. He has run 1:55 already this season and will be doubling back from the 1600 but his 1:55 is the fastest time of the season by any athlete in the field. John Ryan of Savannah Country Day has a PR of 1:54 and has already run 1:56 this season. Unlike the girls 800, the boys 800 features 4-5 boys who could win the race on Saturday.

Girls/Boys 200m

The girls 200 features 5 athletes with PRs under 25.0 seconds. Lailah Green leads the field with a PR of 24.37 that she ran last weekend at the MTFXCCGA Invitational. Ne'Yonnah Davis of South Gwinnett is the 2nd fastest seed with a PR of 24.39 and has not raced yet this outdoor season. Tanii O'Gwinn of Archer HS has run 25.16 already this season and looks sharp and ready to push for the win on Saturday. Yasmine Martin of South Cobb will look to double back from the 400 and put herself in the mix for a medal. Like the boys 100, Shavique Bascus of Clarke Central is the top seed with a PR of 21.23 that he ran a few weeks ago at the Jerry Arnold Challenge and looks to be the sharpest athlete in the field. Jaden Barnes of Langston Hughes HS and Carl Murray of North Atlanta will look up upset Shavique on Saturday. Jaden 21.42 a couple weeks ago at the Atlanta Games and Carl ran 21.59 last weekend up at River Ridge. CJ Lockhart of Langston Hughes has the 4th fastest PR at 21.56 but has not run the 200 yet this season. He has run 10.74 for the 100 so I fully expect him to factor into the mix up top. 

Boys 3200m

The boys 3200 boasts 5 boys seeded under 10:00 with 4 of the 5 athletes running under that mark this season. Truman Thompson of North Atlanta is the top seed after running 9:33 this past weekend up at River Ridge to go along with his 4:32 from a couple weeks ago. Malachi Burnett of Creekview is only a freshman but has already run 4:40 and 9:48 this season. Despite the lack of HS racing experience, Malachi has shown he can run with the top runners in the state after finishing 8th at the 6A state cross country meet. Mintasinot Zawudie of Shiloh HS comes in with the 3rd fastest time run this season at 9:56. He will be looking to hold on to the lead pack the second half of the race to try to grab a medal and challenge for the top spot. Hines Doyle of Marietta has a PR of 9:44 which puts him right in the mix to challenge for the win. He has only run 10:10 but that was a month ago. Since then he has run 2:07 and 4:37 in the 800 and 1600. His 4:37 gives him the 2nd fastest 1600 run this year by the previously mentioned athletes which shows he can be in the mix challenging for the win on Saturday. A dark horse in the boys 3200 might be Luke Brand from North Paulding. He has run PRs of 4:33 and 10:03 this season. His 4:33 PR shows that he has the potential to mix it up with the top group on Saturday.