ALBANY — The foursome of Matt Sheppard, Christopher Williams, Daniel Hendrix and Dylan Stuckey had been leaving opponents in their wake all season long in the 4x400-meter relay.
Why should the GISA state track and field championships be any different?
The three seniors and one junior clocked a blistering 3:31.65 to win the state title in the final race of the meet Saturday afternoon.
“We have been a team for pretty much the entire season,” said Williams, “and we’ve only lost one race. Winning the state championship was a good way to end the year.”
The 10 points that they earned with the first-place victory helped propel the Gators into a respectable fourth-place finish in the Class AAA division. Stratford Academy of Macon won the meet with 124 points, Deerfield-Windsor of Albany was second with 110 points and Dominion Christian of Marietta took third with 56 points.
On Friday, Sheppard, Williams and Hendrix, all seniors, and Stuckey, a junior, turned in the top time qualifying time of 3:33.00. Saturday, the foursome knew that the title was within reach but Stratford Academy stood in their way.
“In qualifying, Stratford split up their guys so they could qualify two teams,” said Williams. “Then, they put all of the fastest kid on one team. On my leg (the third), a guy gained on me a little but died at the end. Then, it was our fastest guy (Hendrix) against their fastest guy. We weren’t truly confident of the win until Daniel had about 100 meters left.”
The Bulloch girls had their state championship hopes dashed by the running depth of both Deerfield-Windsor and Stratford. DWS captured the girls’ Class AAA title with 125 points, SA was second with 113 and Bulloch finished third with 102.5.
After the second day, BA had 64.5 points for a slim lead on the Lady Knights (52) and the Lady Eagles (49). But the Deerfield girls netted 73 points in the meet’s final day while Stratford captured 64 points to Bulloch’s 38.
On Saturday, the Lady Gators notched a second-place finish, two thirds, two fourths, a fifth and two sevenths.
Junior Kristin Kingery was the state runner-up in the 300m hurdles (48.84) while classmate Page Spence was third (50.22). Kingery, Spence and fellow juniors Pate Lomax and Ashley Burke teamed up to take third in the 4x400m relay (4:16.99). Kingery, Lomax, senior Chelesa Oglesby and freshman Dailey Averitt finished fourth in the 4x100m relay (52.82). Burke took fourth in the 3200m run (12:06.63). Averitt captured fifth in the 400m dash (1:04.52).
Eighth grader Mattie Wynn Hendrix finished seventh in the 3200m run (12:18.41) and ran a leg on the seventh-place 4x400m relay team of senior Danielle Atkinson, Averitt and eighth grader McKenzie Crooms (4:29.17). Oglesby was third in running for the high-point trophy (27.25 points)
For the boys, Stuckey turned in a 42.18 in the 300m hurdles for a third-place finish. Hendrix was fifth in the 400m dash (52.32). The second 4x4 team of freshman Davis Childs, junior Atys Cope and seniors John Paul Padilla and Will Bohlke captured fourth (3:40.78). Padilla was sixth in the 200m dash (24.07) and junior Atys Cope was eighth in the 100m hurdles (17.67).
Robert Toombs Christian Academy of Lyons won the Class A boys’ meet while Thomas Jefferson Academy of Louisville took the girls’ title. In Class AA, Trinity Christian School of Dublin captured the boys’ championship and Gatewood School of Eatonton won the girls’ meet.