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Gators leap to victory: Bulloch Academy girls, boys win 7-team meet
nelson burke in 100 hurdles 2
Bulloch Academy's Merrill Nelson, left, clears a hurdle during the second heat race of the girls 100-meter hurdles in a track and field meet Wednesday at Gator Alley. Robert Toombs Christian Academy's Helen Yancey, middle, and Bulloch Academy's Haley Burke, right, prepare to clear hurdles. Nelson finished fourth, Yancey was third and Burke was second. - photo by RAHN HUTCHESON/Special

    Bulloch Academy flexed its track and field muscles Wednesday in a seven-team meet that served as a warm-up for next week’s region action.
    Both the Gators and the Lady Gators ran up the point totals in the all-classification event as coaches from each team got one last look at their athletes’ abilities headed into their respective region meets.
    Bulloch will travel to Augusta Preparatory School in Martinez on Wednesday to compete in the Region 4-AAA championships. BA head track and field coaches Barbara Conner and Ronnie Hodges did some last-minute shuffling.
    “We did a couple of experiments today,” Conner said, “and I think that we got the lineup of runners where we need to be for next week. I feel good about it.”
    Her Lady Gators squad totaled 224 points to help ease her mind. Robert Toombs Christian Academy was second with 67 points and Frederica Academy was third with 66 points.
    “We have five girls, led by Taylor Collins in field events and Ashley Burke in the distance events, who will be our keys at region.”
    Collins, a senior, outdistanced everyone in the shot put (32 feet, 3 inches) and the discus (86 feet, 8 inches), won the high jump (5 feet) and ran the lead legs on both of the winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams to lead the BA assault.
    Burke, a freshman, took the 3200-meter run (12:28), the 1600m run (5:50) and was second in the 800m run (2:43). Classmate Pate Lomax won the long jump (14-7 ½), nipped Burke in the 800m run (2:42) and ran legs on the relay teams.
    BA juniors Anna Newton and Mary Margaret Reeves also were on the 4x100 (53.96) and the 4x400 (4:36) squads. Newton won the 400m dash (64.74) and Reeves edged her classmate by .33 seconds in the 200m dash (28.54). Marianna Peebles, also a junior, won the pole vault (7-0).
    “Our depth is the key,” Conner said. “Other teams may have some top athletes who may win events (10 points) but, hopefully, we can outpoint them in those events by having both our number one and number two athletes finish second and third (14 points). We’ll also have our share of girls winning events, too.
    In the boys’ meet, Hodges’ boys netted 170 points. Edmund Burke Academy scored 85 points for second place and Robert Toombs took third place with 74 points.
    Jaylen Evans and Harrison Averitt led the Gator guys. Evans, a senior, won the 100m dash (11.64), the long jump (19-4 ½), was second in the high jump (5-8) and ran legs on both of the winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Averitt, a junior, won the triple jump (38-3) and the 400m dash (52.25) and also ran legs relay teams. Forrest Spence, also a junior, won the 300m hurdles (43.56), was second in the triple jump and was a member of the 4x4 team. Junior Bailey Smith was also on the 4x4 team (3:57) while sophomore Matt Sheppard and freshman Aaron Best rounded out the 4x1 (46.68).
    “Harrison and Jaylen lead a team full of talented young men,” Conner said. “Again, depth is the key. The finishes of our number twos is very important.”
    While the Gators will head out of town Wednesday for their region meet, Gator Alley will still be in use. Teams from Region 2-AA and Region 2-A will hold their region meets at Bulloch’s track and field facility. Frederica Academy, headed by former BA athletics director Clint Morgan, will host the event, which begins at 10 a.m.