2024 GHSA 5A Boys And Girls State Track & Field Meet Preview

Lithia Springs will try to rely on their sprinters this weekend, let by Destiny Jenkins (lane 4)

Wow. I can't believe it's already the state meet week. The regular season kind of comes in a few different phases and all of them seem like a whirlwind in different ways. We start off with the indoor season which already has plenty of question marks as you never know who is going all in on indoor and who is saving it for outdoor. So each elite performance seems like a fun surprise. Then we move on to the regular outdoor season where you never know what you're gonna get in terms of weather but it seems like everybody is just competing all of the time. Results are pouring in and elite performances are found all over the place. But then championship season brings with it a whole new vibe as teams try to get as many athletes as they possibly can through the rounds and to the state meet. Region and Sectionals always have their casualties as this sport is built on multiple rounds of qualification, and managing those rounds is a part of it at all levels. It's not who can run the fastest, jump the highest, or throw/jump the farthest in one effort, championship season is about managing those rounds and being able to perform consistently so that you can show the best of yourself at the state meet.

After the meets this weekend, the 5A Virtual meets are updated to reflect the sectional results. So now that we know who all is competing at the GHSA 5A State Championships, let's focus on what we're going to see at these meets. Don't forget to check the meet hub all week as it gets updater through the end of the weekend with our full coverage!

State Meet Hub

Boys Team Race

I could see a few different teams winning this one, and I really don't see any one of them as a true "favorite" for the crown. If you go by season PR, it's possible that Tucker is the team to beat. If you go by sectionals it looks like Maynard Jackson. And looking at both you've got both Jefferson and Heritage in the mix for the win as well. Too close to call for me at this point, this is one of those let the chips fall where they may type of deals. Tucker has points coming from several places but they're best in the field, specifically the jumps and throws. Maynard Jackson is also fairly balanced but they do best on the track with distance and sprints. Heritage had a big sectional in the jumps, but their relays are also very strong. And Jefferson is also a team with alot of points coming from multiple areas but their best disciplines are the jumps and distance. Those four are in good position, but by no means are any of them locks for a trophy. So much cna happen over four days and I think teams like Chapel Hill, Calhoun, and Lithia Springs should all come in confident that they can contend for a team trophy.

Boys Top Athletes to Watch

We lost Tyler Stewart's teammate in the qualifying rounds which is a shame. But Stewart is no slouch and one of the best 100m runners in the state in any classification. He is definitely the one to beat in the 100. The 200 is interesting because at sectionals the guys who did the best came down from the 400 with Jaden Dix and Rashad Smithleading the way. But on the season, Gabriel Daniels is the guy to beat as he steps up from the 100. There's no telling who will win this thing. And maybe it'll end up being Ian Hodge who is the favorite in the 400 over Dix, Smith, and Altaveon Grant. The 200 is the event to watch at this meet.

The 800 is a very cluttered event and the depth means that any number of guys could win it. The interesting thing about the 800 this year is that it's now the same day as the 4x800. So I wouldn't be surprised if in multiple classifications we see some upsets as guys who sit from the relay beat some guys who are tired from the relay. Who knows, but it'll be a fun event in class 5A regardless as Ben Markham and Chris Connolly have the top times on the season. The 1600 is a little more straightforward as Connolly is definitely the top seed, but don't count out Jacob Pullen in this one as he is the favorite in the 3200 and could challenge for the win in the 1600 as well. 

Sub 14 is very impressive in the 110m hurdles, so expect Jadon Thomason to be ready to go in this meet. There are a bunch of guys all in the 14's though who could be ready to challenge if he stumbles or something. But this is definitely his race to lose. He's also possibly the top contender in the 300 hurdles, but he did get beat slightly last week by Billy Johnson as both of them snuck under 38 seconds. Look for them to have a great race this weekend.

The field events have some very elite performers in class 5A. In the triple jump you've got Muhammad Shareef over 48 and 4 other guys over 47 feet, that should be a good one. In the high jump you've got Ian Hodge at 6-10 and 5 other guys over 6-4. In the long jump you've got 5 guys within 6 inches of each other led by Hasaan Sykes. In the Pole Vault, Jordan Frank looks to be in a league of his own over 16 feet. And in the throws Alex Henry will likely put up some top marks all class in both events.

The 4x1 and 4x2 have some serious speed and tight competitions led by Jones County and Decatur while the 4x4 shows Eastside with a decent lead and the 4x8 has MLK pursuing a state title as the top seed.

Girls Team Race

This is another one that could break in a variety of different ways and I'm not seeing a clear cut favorite with several teams all close enough to feel like they could make a run at the win. Maynard Jackson is definitely in the mix by both PR and sectional performance. So I guess that makes them the favorites? I'm not completely sold though. Both Lithia Springs and Heritage Heritage High school had monster sectional meets compared to season PR's, so either they went too hard or they're peaking at the right time. It'll be fun to find out. Harris Co, Decatur, Cambridge, and Jefferson are all in the mix for the team title too. So with at least 7 teams fighting for the win, this could be a crazy weekend for everybody. Get the popcorn out for this one.

Girls Top Athletes to Watch

The 100m is wide open here with 7 girls all within about a quarter of a second of each other and all sub 12. There's not telling who will win this race and I'm not going to make any predictions. All I know is that Mary Rozier has the fastest PR and Destiny Jenkins ran the fastest at sectionals. knowing that I'd bet on one of those two, but I wouldn't be very confident in that bet. In the 200 there seems to be a more clear cut top 3, but they could finish in any order as Jenkins will face off against Skylar Cunningham and Kaseiana Meriweather, two girls she will also try to beat in the 100. In the 400 we finally have a clear favorite in Jada Buggs, but she will definitely be challenged by Diamond Leslie and Kaya Booker.

The distance events are interesting. Effie Ward is trying for the distance triple, and she's good enough that she could win all 3. the problem is that her competitors are not going as hard as she is. So when she gets tired and her competitors are fresh, that could be a problem for her. In the 3200 she has to face off against Sanam Rangaraj who won't be easy to beat. And then after that she's gotta race Sophie D'Elena in the 1600 and 800, as well as race Rangaraj again in the 1600. My gut tells me that each of these ladies will win one of the races but you never know who will be feeling the best all weekend. 

The hurdles will feature a battle between India Thorpe and Taylor Daniels at both the 100 and 300 hurdles. They could have competition for a top spot though as Laila Stowe could still win the 100 and Angelina Williams could contend in the 300.

There will be some serious battles in the field events at this one. The best one will probably come in the Long Jump with Ava Kitchings and Mary Rozier both over 20 feet already this year. It'll be two superstars duking it out with everything on the line. Can't wait to see those results. In the high jump you've got Lilah Versluis going up against Kaiya Bryant, both girls over 5-6 this year. The triple jump sees Diamond Leslie leading Emanni Roberts and Versluis as all 3 girls have jumped over 38 this year. The pole vault will see Layla Keadle trying to hold off the Jefferson duo or Ansley Rice and Ella Kulniszewski. And the throws will feature Jakayla Arnold battling in both events as she goes up against Allana Williams in the shot put and then against Kristan Simmons and Jasmin Sewell in the discus.

The relay events will be fun to watch as always, and since it might come down to the 4x400 in the team battle, these will matter. And with most teams who ar ein the title hunt fielding at least one relay team, several of them a 4x4 team, this could get interesting. Heritage has the strongest 4x4 squad on paper, but will they after 3 days of competition? Lithia Springs is strong too and both schools are in position to go 1-2 in the 4x1 and 4x2 as well. These events really will make a huge difference in the final team battle this time. Throw in the Decatur girls likely winning the 4x8 and you've got the relay events playing a major role all weekend in this meet.