Lightning and rain were the toughest competitors at the 13th annual Gator Relays at the Georgia Southern University track and field complex.
Three delays caused by streaking bolts of lightning and torrential rains caused the cancellation of six events but a tenacious Barbara Conner, head coach of the host Bulloch Academy track teams, kept her faith that the sky would clear and the meet would resume.
"We had teams from Atlanta and Macon and even one from Alabama," said Conner. "Some had even spent Friday night in Statesboro. We wanted to try and make it worth their while. We looked at the radar and we were just on the edge of the system. We needed it to move. When it finally did, the sun came out, the track dried off and it made for a beautiful afternoon."
An estimated 250 athletes representing 19 independent schools from around the state and even one from Alabama participated in the all-classification meet that boasted some of the best athletes in the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA). The delays did drive a few teams, such as Dominion Christian, Mount de Sales and Stratford, home in the afternoon.
Trinity Christian School from Dublin netted 135 points to win girls’ meet, edging the Bulloch girls by just 10 points. Brentwood from Sandersville finished third (78), Mount Vernon Presbyterian of Atlanta was fourth (63) and Frederica Academy from St. Simons Island was fifth (24).
"It came right down to the wire," said Conner. "Last year, we did it to them (Trinity) by winning the final race to win the Gator Relays. Then, they turned around and beat us at region and state. We hope turnabout is fair play."
Mount Vernon garnered 101 points to win the boys’ meet. Bulloch took second (73), Trinity Christian was third (56), Pinewood Christian from Bellville was fourth (34) and Stratford Academy from Macon (27) was fifth.
The major sponsors of the 2012 Gator Relays were Hendley Properties, Sheppard Lumber Company, The Sack Co. and SCM, Inc., Isabella’s Restaurant, Video Warehouse and Statesboro Appliance Center. All first-place winners received souvenir t-shirts, compliments of the sponsors.
But the first-place t-shirts were few for Bulloch; there were just three for the boys and none for the girls.
For the Bulloch boys, Harrison Averitt won the 400-meter dash (51.53) and Forrest Spence took the 300m hurdles (44.34). The 4x400m relay team of Averitt, Spence, Daniel Hendrix and Matt Sheppard captured first (3:43.87) as well.
The 4x100m relay team of Averitt, Spence, Sheppard and Aaron Best took second. Third-place efforts were turned in by Hendrix (300m hurdles, 48.35) and Best (200m dash, 23.59).
For the Lady Gators, Taylor Collins notched three individual seconds and was a part of another. She threw 108-2 in the discus, 33-0 in the shot put and leapt 5-1 in the high jump. She and Pate Lomax, Anna Newton and Mary Margaret Reeves were second in the 4x400m relay (4:21.77).
Ashley Burke also had three seconds. She ran a 12:36 in the 3200m run, a 5:47 in the 1600m run and a 2:34 in the 800m run. Anna Newton took second in the 400m dash (62.26).
"We ran well," said Conner. "Ashley had her best times and so did our sprinters. But when you are in a big meet like this with very good competition, you are gonna see some of the state’s top athletes. That’s when every point, from 10 for winning an event to one for finishing eighth, counts."