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Annual Gator Relays set for Saturday

    Athletes representing 22 independent schools from around the state and even one from Alabama will converge on Statesboro today for the 13th annual Gator Relays.
    Hosted by Bulloch Academy, the all-classification meet will boast some of the best athletes in the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA). The meet will be held at Georgia Southern University’s state-of-the-art track and field facility. 
    “The track facility at Georgia Southern is so comparable to what we run on at state (Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany),” said BA head track and field coach Barbara Conner. “It makes people want to run there to prepare for the state meet.”
    An estimated 250 athletes will participate in the meet, which begins at approximately 10 a.m. Admission is $5 per person for the day-long event and full concessions will be available. The major sponsors of the 2012 Gator Relays are Hendley Properties, Sheppard Lumber Company, The Sack Co. and SCM, Inc., Isabella’s Restaurant/Video Warehouse, Statesboro Appliance Center and Blount, Burke, Wimberly and Hendricks. All first-place winners will receive souvenir t-shirts, compliments of the sponsors, with additional t-shirts available for purchase.
    In 2011, the Bulloch Academy boys and girls claimed the top trophies in the meet.
    The Lady Gators won just two events but amassed 159.5 points by sheer numbers to claim the first-place trophy for the third year in a row while the Bulloch boys scored 159 points to dominate their meet. It was the first time since 2006 that both BA teams captured the Relays.
    Ten Gator Relay records fell last year. The most impressive record-setting performance came from Trinity Christian School junior Sarah Howard. She threw the discus an amazing 143-0 to win and break her record from 2010, which was 125-7. Dominion’s Shannon Rose Forde set three new records; running a 12.04 in the 100m dash, a 14.84 in the 100m hurdles and jumping 18-2 ½ in the long jump.
    In the girls’ meet, Howard, now a senior at the Dublin school, is head-and-shoulders above the competitors in her events.
    “She has thrown the shot 51 feet this season,” said Conner. “That is the best outdoor put in Georgia, regardless of public or private or any classification. She is nationally ranked.”
    Top female athletes in the distance events include Bulloch’s Ashley Burke, Trinity’s Katie Rose Alligood and Augusta Prep’s Holodak. Girls from Dominion Christian of Marietta and Mount Vernon Presbyterian of Atlanta will battle in the sprints. Unfortunately Forde will not be able to defend her records because she is rehabbing a leg injury. Hailey from Mount Vernon is favored in the 300m hurdles (43.57) and the 200m dash (25.1). In the 100m dash, she and teammate Douglas, both of whom sport 12.7s, will battle for first place. Brentwood from Sandersville, Bulloch and Trinity will battle it out for the girls’ team title.
    In the boys’ meet, some of the premier athletes will be Tiftarea’s Sumner in the pole vault (14-0), Williams from Bethesda Day School in Savannah in the 100m dash (10.9), Bulloch’s Jaylen Evans in the high jump (6-0) and the long jump (20-2), Mount de Sales’ Fitzgerald and McCloud from Trinity in the 3200m run (10:30). Stratford Academy from Macon is favored to win the team title.