2024 GHSA 7A Boys And Girls State Track & Field Meet Preview

Marietta's distance squad will do some heavy lifting this weekend as they pursue a state title

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 7A Virtual meets are updated to reflect the sectional results. So now that we know who all is competing at the GHSA 7A 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

***Ok so this needs a caveat. The 7A state meet is USUALLY the deepest overall when you look at the events overall. Other classes can be better in some events, sure. But overall the 7A meet is usually just deeper than the rest. And so what that means in terms of team score is that things can end up very different from the projection as a team that was supposed to do well in an event or two falls victim to that depth and comes up short. This is fun for the fans though, because it means there's all sorts of surprises that we can get at this meet. Ok, now that I've put my disclaimer out there so I don't get roasted on social media, let's preview this thing.***

The boys team race looks like it's potentially a two horse race. And in track and field there's nothing more fun than going into the Saturday of the meet knowing the team scores, having a list of projected team scores, and watching the team scores update after each event. The drama that can unfold is epic as there's always a surprise or two. So I expect this to happen on Saturday with Walton and Mill Creek as they battle for a team title this weekend. There's no way this thing will be over after two days, so get ready for a wild ride on Saturday. Walton is the more balanced of the two squads, and project to score fairly evenly among all of the disciplines except hurdles. But they do have a distance stud in Joseph Minecci who could single handedly determine the outcome of this meet. He's entered in all 3 distance events and is the favorite to win all 3. If he does put up 30 points for Walton, this thing could be over. On the flip side, if he struggles with his massive load, then Mill Creek could be too far ahead for Walton to catch on Saturday. Mill Creek scores most of their points on Thursday and Friday as they're strongest in the throws, jumps, and distance. But they've got some potential points coming on Saturday too, so I would love to see this thing come down to the 4x4 where both teams are projected to score points. There's nothing better than a track meet coming down to the 4x4, and with how close these two teams are, that might end up happening! But remember how I used the word "potentially" when describing the team battle? That's because there's a wild card in here with Carrollton. They could be sneaky good in this thing. They don't look like much on paper, but there are untapped points there in the distance and field events that could turn this thing into a 3 team race, giving Walton two teams to chase down on Saturday instead of just one.

There are SEVERAL other teams who are in the podium mix coming into this thing. I don't really think I can do all of them justice, but I'll give it a shot. Buford is of course strong in the sprints and the relays. If they show up and just flat out beat teams because they're faster, then they'll probably be on the podium, and maybe even more. Harrison has some studs on the distance side. They're young, but they're still good enough to put up quite a few points. Westlake is another school that is also always really good in the sprints, hurdles, jumps, and relays. They lost some points in qualification, which can happen to the best of them unfortunately. But it's still Westlake, they've won state titles when I thought they were out of it before, so you can't ever count them out at the state meet. Denmark has sprint points, but they've also got plenty of relay points which makes them dangerous if they have a big meet. Marietta is still Marietta. They genuinely might have the best coaching duo in the state between their head track coach and head XC coach. And honestly there's a case to be made that EACH of them is the best coach in the state in their own right. What those two have been able to do in the last decade (and before) is pretty incredible. So with enough athletes and that kind of coaching, who knows what they'll be able to do. There are a few other schools who could be dreaming of a podium finish as well, but let's move on.

Boys Top Athletes to Watch

I hear two arguments quite often in this sport - "The 100 is the best event in track because that's how you find out who the fastest is" or "The 400 is the best event in track because that's how you find out who the toughest is" and they're both fair arguments. But as I've written in so many previews already, the event of the meet is probably going to be the 200! The 200 is such a cool event because it brings together the 100 and 400 runners and so you get tons of depth. The only problem with the 200 is how late in the meet it takes place, which means most athletes are at least a little fatigued by the time they get to it. Or worse, injured. But when the stars align? Fireworks! And that's what we might get on Saturday as the heavy 100m favorite will hopefully square off against the state record holder in the 400m. Jaden Wiley is having a dominant season and he just looks invincible as he has not lost a single race all year. That usually means the best is yet to come. Sidi Njie has been nothing short of incredible since he started running in a Westlake uniform. This year he's not only back to defend his title in the 400, but he's attempting the double with the 200 as well as any relays he's on. Those two meet in the 200 and at sectionals they ran 0.01s apart from one another. This is gonna be exciting when they finally meet on Saturday in the 200m final. Other athletes to watch for include Floyd Samuels Jr, Almar Clarke, and Jeremiah Colbert in the 100, Tyson Poole and Samuels in the 200, and Ervin Pearson, Elijah Thomas, and Rickey Williams in the 400. Wiley and Njie are certainly not locks to sweep the wins between the two of them, as many of those other sprinters are close enough that the races are in doubt.

The 3200 will be a fun one. I mentioned Minecci as the favorite here, but that's because I don't think he's gone all out in this event in a while. I suspect he's got more in the tank, and since he's the XC champion and will be fresh for this one, I'll consider him the favorite. But he's not at all the heavy favorite. There are several other guys in the mix. Noah Martinson, Jackson Hogsed, and Ben Winn all have faster times this year, and Hogsed and Winn have both beaten Minecci. Martinson could have some extra motivation after a DQ at the sectional meet in the 1600 and could be fueled to prove himself even more. Hogsed has been flying kind of under the radar, but his season also suggests he's got more in the tank. And Winn has also had a similar season and has a good kick as well. Any of those guys could win it along with Jameson Pifer who might have the best kick of all of them. If he's on his game the first seven laps, then watch out. the 1600 features mostly more of the same names but throw in Clint Huggins and Hagan Russell. I'm definitely betting on Minecci for this one as it might be his best event, but if he has to completely sell out in that 3200 it could mean one of the fresher guys takes this one. Huggins scratched from the 3200, presumably to go all in on this one so let's see what happens. And finally the 800 is the other race where Minecci has the fastest PR, but it'll easily be the hardest one for him to pull off. One can assume that Zach Patell and Grayson Swingley are ready to roll with two of the faster times this season after they went 1-2 in the sectional results merge too. They might be a safer bet than Minecci but who knows. Parker Chase is also in the mix as well as Martison and Russell who will be trying to get key points for Carollton.

Ok, it's time to highlight Mr. Aaron Jones. You could argue he's not quite gotten the attention he deserves this season, but this guy has been lights out all year long. And he officially comes into the state meet as the top seed in both of the hurdle events. Now Jorden Reddick technically has a faster PR than Jones and will definitely be fighting for the win, but Jones had the fastest time at sectionals, and sometimes in the hurdles it's about getting your steps right at the right time, so Jones comes in as the favorite. Daniel James is the other of the big 3 in the 110 hurdles who could step up and win this race. Jones appears to be more of a favorite in the 300 hurdles, but he still has to beat James along with Kendrick Joshua, Marco Henson, and Navan McCoy

In the field events, we have start off with the pole vault. This thing is going to be crazy, and managing fatigue will be a very important part of this competition. There are 8 guys who have gone over 14 feet in the vault this year, and that kind of depth will definitely make a difference as the competition goes on. Will Frederick is the top seed at 15-6 and Harrison Green is the only other vaulter over 15 this season, so odds are it'll be one of those two standing on the top step, but this thing is still very crowded. The other really competitive event will probably be the triple jump with several guys over 47 feet led by Femi Stuart and Demarko Jr Lawler. There are a few more guys in contention for the win, but considering big team points are on the line with those two, my guess is that it comes down to them. Lawler also leads in the long jump as the only jumper over 24 feet and Elijah McDowell leads another deep field in the high jump with a PR of 6-8 when there are four more guys over 6-6. Mill Creek is hoping the throws go their way too as they're led by Michael Savariau in the discus and Brayden Walters in the shot put. 

Like I said, I really hope this thing comes down to the 4x4, with Mill Creek and Walton both expected to score in it. But Westlake has by far the best team for that event, and if they run all of their horses, they'll probably come away with the win. If not expect it to go Denmark or Newton. The 4x1 should be a really good battle between Buford, Westlake, and Pebblebrook. It's gonna be really tight and a couple of others are in contention as well. The 4x2 is also led by Buford, with Denmark close behind and several others in the mix. And the 4x8 is the annual mystery event. Who is going to run a full A squad for this one and who is going to let kids sit to rest for the open 800? It's impossible to know at this time, but if they're running at full strength Harrison and Carrollton are probably the teams to beat in that one.

Girls Team Race

Well, raise your hand if you are surprised to see this team race as a battle between Marietta and Westlake. No hands in the air here? Yeah, I didn't think so. This is far from a done deal (see my caveat above) as anything can happen at state. But given the rankings and history, this will probably come down to a battle with possibly the two best track and field programs in the state. Marietta is very distance heavy with their points this year while Westlake is big in the sprints, relays, and hurdles. This one could also come down to the 4x400m relay. That would be amazing if it happened in both meets. It's happened before so I hope it happens again. Ok, so nothing surprising about the top two teams, but there are several others within striking distance. And state comes down to who performs the best. North Cobb has very strong sprints and hurdles and could be a factor here. Walton is very balanced but could pile up enough points across multiple events to play a role. Archer has a good bit of throws points and enough points elsewhere to be a factor. Hillgrove has really good throws and relays and could be a big time player. Dacula has a bunch of jumps points, but that probably won't be enough to get them the win. Could get them on the podium though. And other teams who could be a factor are Buford, Harrison, and Newton.

Girls Top Athletes to Watch

Well the girls sprint events are just loaded with talent. Somto Igwilo has burst onto the high school scene in a way that maybe only one other girl has ever done in her freshman year. The fact that I'm drawing Candace Hill comparisons here says alot about what this young lady has done this year. Although since she attends Walton, maybe I should make the comparison to Tia Jones. Anyway, she's the favorite in the 100, and she's doing so against a very talented field. Any other year we'd be preparing ourselves for an epic duel between Ryan Davis and Keira Beaumont. But Igwilo has changed the narrative here. It's going to be exciting. And there are like 7-8 more girls capable of breaking 12 in this field, so we will likely see one of the deepest 100m races in Georgia history. The 200 looks more like it'll go to a senior as Davis and Zion Lockette have the top two times on the year. But Jasmine Robinson is in the mix, so it could also go to an underclassman. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if Igwilo took this one too. The 400 has our first true favorite as Olivia Harris is significantly faster than her competition. That's not easy to do in class 7A so it'll be interesting to see if she goes full tilt or holds back so she can save her energy to help her team in other areas.

Ok the distance events. Are we about to see the Mary Nesmith show again this year? Probably. The sophomore has shown no cracks all season long and looks ready to take care of business this weekend. It's a heavy load, but she's the betting favorite in all of her events. So let's look at who might challenge her and to do that we have to start with the 3200 and Samantha McGarity. McGarity is a stud that had some bad luck but looks to be running well now. Considering some of the amazing things she's done at the state XC meet, it would not shock me if she took down Nesmith. Other potential competitors include Maddie Jones and Morgan Grace Sheffield. In the 1600 it's mostly the same, but just add in Nora Hart as a top 3 contender as well. It's the 800 where things could get interesting. Not just because Nesmith might be tired, but also because that's where she's the most vulnerable. Kendall Johnson appears to be the biggest threat to the Nesmith reign of terror. But I could see a few of these girls winning it depending on how the race goes including Angelique Degboe and Yolanda Brooks

Ok here we go. Hurdles! There is nothing cooler than an epic action shot of a hurdler on the cover page. So I'm hoping these ladies can deliver one of those to me this weekend. And if there's going to be exciting action in the hurdles, it's probably coming in this classification. The 100m hurdles is going to be...special. 3 ladies sub 14 is amazing. I can't wait to see this one. Technically the favorite is Jaden Billings, but any of these girls can win it. Jasmine Robinson is a superstar in the 300 hurdles who's getting pretty darn good at the 100 hurdles too. But Jaci Wright is the one that's on fire right now as she ran a PR at the sectional meet which means she might be peaking at the right time. I've got no prediction here other than it's going to be fast and exciting. In the 300 hurdles things won't be quite as exciting as that's where Robinson excels and is a very strong favorite. Billings will be in there, but the biggest threat comes from her teammate Danayja Harper.

And last but not least are the field events. This is where Danah Nembhard gets to be the star. She's the favorite in the triple jump with Alana Hassell or Adrianna Pelham most likely to get runner up. She's the favorite in the high jump, with Zion Lockette and Akeelah Bryan favored to challenge her. And she's favored to get 2nd in the long jump behind Jaci Wright. She's possibly putting up almost 30 points all by herself. That's helpful to have in the team battle. Cassidy Woodham looks like she might be queen bee in the pole vault. And Christianne Akintayo could take home two throwing titles. she's most likely to be challenged by Ayla Inan and Kijana Callwood in the discus. 

In the relays expect Westlake girls to do well in the 4x100 and 4x200 with Hill grove and Lambert trying to challenge. In the 4x4 McEachern and Buford both appear good enough to knock off Westlake, though Westlake could take that one. And the 4x800 will probably be Marietta if they're running anything close to an A squad.