2023 GHSA 3A Boys And Girls State Track & Field Meet Preview

Gandor Bah will try to help Sandy Creek win a title with big points in the hurdles

GHSA 3A Girls State Meet Preview


For the past few seasons, the best girls' track and field teams in 3A belonged to Westminster and Greater Atlanta Christian. This year, both of those teams have moved up classifications, leaving a potentially more open field. One team has risen above the rest so far this season to fill the void of the departed schools: Sandy Creek. They have been on a mission to win their first girls' T&F state title all season long, and the Patriots will be favorites to do so in Albany. Leading the charge for Sandy Creek will be senior mid-distance phenom Isis Symone Grant, the state record holder in the 800m. She's the favorite in the 800m and 400m, running 2:09 and 55.2 this season despite not racing outdoors until April. Sprinters Ryan Lewis and Bobbi Olive should score major points in the 100m and 200m. Senior Sky White is an all-around athlete with the #3 ranked long jump in all classifications, as well as the potential to score in the 300m hurdles and the high jump. Together with what should be some great relay teams, as well as more points in the throws and hurdles, and Sandy Creek has all the ingredients to win their first title. 

However, they don't hand you the title just because you have good performances on paper, so Sandy Creek will have to earn it. The two most likely teams to challenge the Patriots are Wesleyan and Monroe Comprehensive, two teams with wildly different constructions. Wesleyan, the 3A girls' XC champions, relies on their distance strength. Junior Anne McSweeney leads the way for the Wolves in the 800 and 1600. Julie Anne Bush could also finish in the top 3 in the 1600 and 3200. Eva Murphy and Kyra Brubaker round out the list of Wesleyan distance runners, and they'll surely be favored in the 4x800m. Monroe Comprehensive relies much more on its sprinters and hurdlers to give them points. Sophomore Marianna Wright is essentially unbeatable, barring injury, in the 300m hurdles. She just broke the 13-year-old state record in the event, running 41.18. Wright is also one of the favorites to win the 200m dash. Joining Wright at state will be Kaitlyn Williams, a potential scorer in the 200 and 400, and Eve Craig, a potential scorer in the 800 and 400. Covering the 100m hurdles, and winning her sectional, is Ricoria Winchester. 

Other teams who could challenge for the podium include Hebron Christian, Bremen, Monroe Area, and Columbus. All of these teams have strong field event squads and relays, and it wouldn't be surprising to see any of these four on the podium. With these squads having more field event power, they could jump out to an early lead at the state meet and make the other teams have to come from behind to beat them. 


You won't want to miss Isis Symone Grant's races in the 400m or 800m. She's ranked more than two seconds ahead of the field in the 400, and she's run an unbelievable 10 seconds faster than her next closest competitor in the 800. The same advice goes for Marianna Wright's 300m hurdles, as it appears she's the next Sydney McLaughlin in the hurdles. Her 41.18 is a sub-55 second 400m pace-with hurdles in the way! In other events, the high jump should be an exciting battle between Maggie Byrd of Savannah Christian and Marley Derringer of Bremen. Both have jumped 5' 8" this year, and both were undefeated heading into sectionals. Sandy Creek's Lewis is not just a sprinter; she's also a phenomenal triple jumper who is less than an inch away from joining the GA all-time top 10 list. In the pole vault, we should get one of the best matchups in any classification between Amelia Johnson of Hart County, Libby Jackson of Hebron Christian, and Noelle Hambrick of Bremen. Johnson ranks #6 all-time in GA. In the throws, Franklin County junior Saniya Heard is the favorite for the discus, while White County senior Kendra Dye is the favorite for the shot put despite only attempting the event for the first time this season. 

GHSA 3A Boys State Meet Preview


Sandy Creek boys will enjoy the status of favorites heading into the 3A state meet, just like their girls' squad. Unlike their girls, their boys have captured the championship before, in 2015-when they scored just 42 points to win the title, leapfrogging two teams in the last event with a sixth-place finish in the 4x400. It's safe to say that if it only takes 42 points to win again, Sandy Creek finds itself in a comfortable spot. Their strengths are the sprints, jumps, and (especially) relays. John Hopson (6' 8") and Blake Davis (6' 5") are two of the top high jumpers in 3A, and Blake Davis is a threat in the triple jump as well. Dalen Penson has been even better in the triple jump, and he's the third-ranked 110m hurdler in 3A. Kyshon Kenney and Gandor Bah will join Penson in the 110 hurdles, and Zavion Green will balance out the team with some great 200m sprinting. However, it's really the relays that Sandy Creek will be banking on to secure their victory-they rank among the top few favorites in 3A in the 4x200, 4x400, and 4x800, but a tragic DNF at sectionals in the 4x100 may be costly down the line. Having this much track depth is usually a sign of great coaching, so coach Treon Penson deserves a lot of credit.

Attempting to catch Sandy Creek, and also trying to win their first state track and field title, is Oconee County. Despite missing most of the season, junior Cooper Timberman is attempting the distance triple at state and ranks in the top three in the 800, 1600, and 3200. Aaron Brodrick is having one of the best distance seasons for a freshman boy in GA history, and he ranks in the top three in the 1600 and 3200. Add in senior Andrew Knapp's fourth-place ranking in the 800 and junior Patterson Graham's top-six ranking in the 1600 and 3200, and the Warriors could score nearly 50 points from three events alone. They will, of course, also be very heavy favorites to take the 4x800m title. The question will be whether Oconee County can score enough in other events to compete with Sandy Creek. Senior Judah Hobbs will be key in the hurdles, as will David Batts in the high jump. 

A few other teams will be lurking and ready to pounce on one of the top two spots if either Oconee County or Sandy Creek slip up at state. Carver HS in Columbus is a well-balanced squad (excepting the distance events). In the hurdles, Mohamed Diaby is ranked in the top two in both events and could potentially break into the all-time GA top 10 in the 110mH. Isaiah Jenkins could score some points in the 200m and 400m, and Skyler Mitchell and Brandon Webb could do the same in the triple jump. Carver is bolstered by some great relay teams as well. 

Another team to watch is Monroe Area, whose hopes lie almost entirely with their sprinters at state. C.J. Wilburn could be a major factor in the 100m and 200m dashes, and Desmon Heyward will try to score points in both hurdle events. The sprint relays will also be in the wheelhouse of Monroe Area. Junior Rickey Robbins will also be key as he ranks highly in both throwing events, especially the discus, and the same goes for senior Jakyri Jones in the long jump. Finally, Savannah Christian Prep will be relying on the top finishes of their star athletes. Jamari McIvory is favored in the 200 and 400, Elijah Griffin is one of the favorites in the shot put, and Shiv Patel is one of the top high jumpers in 3A. Freshman Carson Taylor has also closed the season strong in the 110mH.


Besides the athletes mentioned above, there are definitely a few athletes and events that deserve to be highlighted. One such athlete is Darrian Burks of Ridgeland HS. Burks is undefeated in the 100 since early March (discounting sectionals) and has broken 10.6 in the 100m twice despite not racing much this season. Another athlete to watch is distance runner John Ryan of Savannah Country Day School. In the 800 and 1600, the two events that he's running at state, Ryan ranks first in 3A, ahead of all the Oconee County runners. Ryan vs. Timberman and Brodrick in the 1600 should be a fantastic race. Another great battle should be Carver's Diaby against Morgan County's Josh Jones in both hurdle events; both athletes rank in the top eight all-classifications in the 110m and 300m hurdles. In the long jump, we have two athletes who come in tied for the 3A lead at 22' 5": LaFayette's Dylan Ballew and White County's Sean Hughes. The next five athletes all have PRs within six inches of that mark, so the long jump will be crazy. Okemus Grier of Jackson is the favorite in the triple jump, almost going undefeated all season. Watch out for Owen Anderson of Hebron Christian in the pole vault, as he's vaulted above 14' in every meet this season and could challenge for one of the top marks in all classifications. In the discus, Hart County junior Trez Fouch will challenge Monroe Area's Robbins. Likewise, in the shot put, Cedar Grove's Solomon Hall will challenge SCPS's Griffin.