Unsung Heroes Apr 10 - 15: Running Up That Straightaway

Ellison Chadwick finishing 3rd in her heat and 8th overall in the 200m at McEachern, her 3rd event of the day

Unsung Heroes Week 8: Running Up That Straightaway

By the time you are reading this, GHSA region meets will have already begun, thus marking the end of the regular season and the beginning of the postseason. (By the way, where do you consider the "postseason" to begin in track season? At region, sectionals, or maybe even after state?) Now that it's consistently warm, and the colder weather fades into a distant memory, the competition heats up as well. The final large invitationals were held last week, which means it was a great time to set new personal bests in the lead-up to the region meet. This week, we're awarding the coveted Unsung Hero title to athletes who set a personal season best in the last week of racing. Many of these athletes set PRs multiple times in one event, PRs in multiple events, or even both! Enjoy the penultimate set of Unsung Heroes for 2023.

"Unsung Heroes" recognizes some great individual performances from this past week across the state of Georgia that might have flown under the radar or gone underappreciated. One winner is selected from each of five categories (sprints, hurdles, distance, jumps, and throwing events) for both boys and girls. Enjoy!

Girls Winners


Ellison Chadwick, Providence Christian

         57.30 in 400m at McEachern Invitational, 4th

         25.37 in 200m at McEachern Invitational, 8th

         12.36 in 100m at McEachern Invitational, 13th

It's a bold move to even register for three individual running events at a major invitational like at McEachern. It's even more bold to nearly set a season best in all three, as Chadwick did last weekend. She just missed out on a 100m and 200m PR by 0.09 and 0.03 sections, respectively, and she did set a SB in the 400m in her best finish of the three events. The 400-meter dash at the 2A girls state championship will be a barnburner, as four athletes have run under 57.4 this season. Chadwick ranks exactly fourth (as of this writing) in 2A in the 100m, 200m, and 400m, so it will be interesting to see whether she attempts all three events at region, as she did last year. On top of everything, Chadwick also ranks second in the long jump in 2A, so up to four events are in play for her at state.


Kiyah Boyd, McEachern

         45.75 in 300mH at JV Cobb County Championship Meet, 1st (finals)

7A has some crazy depth in pretty much every event in track and field, which is why it's much more unlikely to see freshmen or sophomores scoring at the state meet in 7A than some of the lower classifications. However, sophomore Kiyah Boyd may do just that in the 300-meter hurdles. Boyd proved that she was far from a JV athlete at the JV Cobb County Championship Meet that was created to give freshmen and sophomores a chance to shine. Boyd won the 300m hurdles here by nearly two seconds, setting a big PR and ranking 8th in 7A in the process. She also has a very solid 16-flat PR in the 100m hurdles as well, despite not racing that event since mid-March.


Kenyah Conner, Woodward

         5:13.29 in 1600m at Friday Night Lights in Rome, 2nd

What is Kenyah Conner doing here? She's a 2022 state champion in the 800 meters and a runner-up at 400 meters, so how could she be setting a big PR? By dominating in an entirely new event! Conner had run just one 1600 in her entire high school career, finishing in 5:57 back in 2021, before a breakout race in Rome last Friday. At that race, she not only set a major PR and finished with a 6A top-8 time in the event, but she also outran the Armuchee duo of Marissa Kimple and Shelby Green, two very accomplished XC runners, to do so! Only Ella Gibbs's state-leading 4:57 was able to hold off Conner in that race, and it shows that she has the strength to add to her speed to contribute to a variety of events for the War Eagles in the postseason.


Madison Witzke, Columbus High School

         119' 11" in Discus Throw at MCSD Championship, 1st

         105' 8" in Discus Throw at MCSD HS Meet #6, 1st

Usually, seniors don't improve suddenly and dramatically in track and field. Columbus's Madison Witzke is evidence that sometimes, they do. She won the MCSD Championship (for Columbus-area schools) in the discus on Saturday, the second straight year she earned that victory. However, her throw to win it this year was more than 28 feet longer than her winning throw from 2022. Witzke has bested her 2022 PR in five out of six meets in 2023, and her most recent accomplishment marked her best discus throw by 6.5 feet. Witzke is nearly undefeated in the event on the year, and she heads into the region meet ranked third in 3A, just a year after finishing 15th at sectionals.


Rayven Thurston, Westover

         17' 11.5" in Long Jump at Westover Relays, 2nd

         37' 6.25" in Triple Jump at Westover Relays, 2nd

         5' 0" in High Jump at Westover Relays, 4th

It's not uncommon to see athletes who are strong in multiple jumping events, as the skill sets overlap pretty well. What is uncommon, though, is a jumper greatly improving in all jumping events at the same time. Thurston set or tied three PRs at the Westover Relays. In the past few weeks, Thurston has turned around her season by reaching new heights, and going to greater lengths, in all three of the jumping events. Now, Thurston ranks second in 4A in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump, and tied for 12th in the high jump. She is on an absolute tear in the last few weeks of her senior track and field season, and she could do some major damage at the 4A state meet.


Boys Winners


Vincent Quilici, Rome

         48.67 in 400m at Friday Night Lights in Rome, 1st

         21.78 in 200m at Friday Night Lights in Rome, 1st

Home-field advantage isn't usually considered as a major factor in track and field, but we might need to rethink that given how much it seemed to help Vincent Quilici last week. At his home track at Rome High School, Quilici pulled off the double upset victory in the 400m and 200m. In the former event, Quilici dipped under 50 seconds and 49 seconds for the first time, and he ended up winning by more than a second. In the latter event, Quilici broke the 22-second barrier and beat two athletes who beat his former PR in the race. These times rank Quilici 10th in 6A in the 200m and 4th in the 400m. If only the 6A state track meet was held at his home track! Oh, wait...


Ian Tukes, Landmark Christian

         40.13 in 300mH at Christian Coleman Invitational, 6th

         15.49 in 110mH at Christian Coleman Invitational, 9th

The Christian Coleman Invitational, alongside the McEachern Invitational and the Rome Friday Night Lights, was one of the biggest meets of last week in both size and talent. Some of the best teams in the state, such as Westlake, Southwest DeKalb, and Shiloh, made an appearance. It would have been easy for an athlete from humble 2A to get lost in the shuffle, but Ian Tukes of Landmark Christian made the most of his opportunity to race against top competition. Tukes set a PR of 15.49 in the 110m hurdles, but he was just getting started. In the 300m hurdles, Tukes smashed his competition in his heat by about two seconds, and he broke his own PR by about a second. Tukes, a sophomore, and Pierce County senior Jaquez White look to be on a collision course for the 2A championship in the 300m hurdles.


Thomas Rhodes, Roswell

         4:20.10 in 1600m at McEachern Invitational, 8th

         1:57.77 in 800m at Milton Senior Night, 3rd

Rhodes entered April with a PR of 2:00 in the 800m and 4:27 in the 1600m. Now he's run 1:57 and 4:20-and April is not over yet! At the Milton Senior Night meet, Rhodes nearly spoiled Milton star Cory Chambers's senior night in the 800m by setting a new personal best. Then, at the McEachern Invitational a few days later, Rhodes destroyed his PR with a 4:20.1 in the 1600. That's a time that compete with just about anyone in the state, and indeed it was less than two seconds back of third place in a very deep and crowded heat. The good news for Rhodes is that none of the seven runners ahead of him are in 6A, so he'll have a good chance at scoring some important points for Roswell at state.


Jared Moore, Starr's Mill

         51' 8" in Shot Put at McEachern Invitational, 3rd

         150' 6" in Discus Throw at McEachern Invitational, 5th

         51' 5" in Shot Put at Starr's Mill JV Open, 1st

         133' 10" in Discus Throw at Starr's Mill JV Open, 2nd

You might not be surprised to hear that Moore is a monster thrower in 4A with hopes of leading his team to a state title. However, you might be surprised to hear that I'm talking about Jared Moore of Starr's Mill, not Phillips Moore of Westminster. Jared Moore is quickly becoming one of the best, if not the best, sophomore throwers in Georgia. He ranks first among sophomores in the discus and third in the shot put. Like Rhodes above him, Moore stepped up against his top-notch competition at McEachern. Moore's four performances highlighted above actually represent four PRs across two events in a span of just four days. With Starr's Mill aiming for the 4A team state title, any extra points that Moore can grab will be crucial for the Panthers.


Elijah McDowell, South Gwinnett

         6' 4" in High Jump at BSN Tiger Tune-Up, 1st  

7A might be the deepest of the classifications, but that doesn't mean it always has the most superstars. One example is the boys' high jump, where just one boy has jumped higher than 6' 4" in the high jump (Kennesaw Mountain's Korbin Brown). This leaves a large group at a season best of 6' 4" and an even larger group at 6' 2". One athlete who could seriously take advantage of the wide-open high jump competition is South Gwinnett junior Elijah McDowell. He only managed to hit the 6-foot barrier once last season, and he's hovered around that height in most of his meets this season. However, he showed up and grabbed the victory at 6' 4" at the BSN Tiger Tune-Up, beating out competitor Mekhi Oliver (PR of 6' 6") on tiebreaks. Now he has the confidence to compete with any athlete in 7A, which could be dangerous for the rest of the field.