The Girls 800m Brings Excitement to Georgia T&F In 2023

The new state record in the 800m was lowered on Saturday night at Wingfoot

The girls 800m is one of the events that feels like it's at another level compared to where it was 5 years ago. This is true across the US, but it's definitely true here in Georgia too. Maybe it's my own personal bias after that being my main event in high school, but it's been one of the most exciting things to watch over the last few years. 

There was a time that anything sub 2:10 seemed almost impossible for a high school girl in Georgia. In 1985, Susan Crisp from Brookwood set a record at 2:08.75. Potential issues with hand timing aside, that was a record that was very hard to beat. It took 20 years until Ena Luefroy from Marist ran 2:08.65 at the state meet. Then a year later Brittany hall lowered it to 2:08.58. But even then, those two athletes seemed like they would be outliers and not the new normal in the event. Which also proved to be true as it took over 10 years before Brynne Sumner finally lowered the record to 2:07.93.

And that's when the resurgence seemed to start. We lost the 2020 season so there was no record breaking performances there. But other than that blip we've seen the state record go down every single season since 2019. And I have a good feeling that trend will continue next year as well. The 2021 Wingfoot Night of Champions was eye opening for me. All season we had been watching Riley Perlakowski do amazing things in the 800. She ran 2:08.11 at the state meet, just shy of the state record, and seemed to be in perfect position to be pushed to get it at wingfoot.

The state record did indeed get broken at Wingfoot in 2021, but it wasn't by Perlakowski. I hadn't been paying close enough attention to Gabriella Grissom and Isis Symons Grant, both from Sandy Creek. So when Grissom outkicked Perlakowski and Grant finished in 3rd overall, I was floored. What did I just see happen? Grissom lowered the state record to 2:07.61 and Grant was running 2:10 for 3rd. I noticed Grissom and Grant running fast at their state meets, but they seemed like they were more 400 runners than 800 runners. How little did I know that you could truly excel in both. And that seems to be the key to all of this. If you are an elite 400 runner who can step up in the 800, you might become the best ever. 

Because a little over year later, Grant broke the state record again, running 2:07.29. And then here are are again in 2023 and she lowered it even more to 2:06.08 on Saturday night. But what's really exciting about all of this is that it seems like we're not even close to done with the record setting in this event. Oluwatosin Awoleye and Kenyah Conner had one of the best 800m battles in state meet history when they ran 2:08.28 and 2:08.79 in the 6A state final. Awoleye has run a PR of 2:07.43 as well. Both girls lined up on Saturday to race Grant, but couldn't quite hang with the all time best. And yet the future is as bright as it can be with both girls coming back next year. Awoleye is only a sophomore. And there are several more names that could be added here as potential sub 2:10 girls for next year and beyond.

So now Georgia has 3 girls in the top 25 in the nation. They're also ranked 1, 2, and 10 in state history. All 3 of them compete in the 400m far more than they compete in the 1600m, giving more evidence that the 800m is closer to a sprinting event than it is a distance event. It makes me wonder if we will see the same thing on the guys all time lists soon as more 400m runners step up and attempt the 800 now that the 4x800 relay is on the state scene. Either way, the event has an exciting future in our state.