Miller Grove’s Kenneth Gilstrap perhaps earned the title as the “state’s fastest man” at the GHSA track championships Saturday in Jefferson.
Gilstrap led the Lithonia school to the Class AAAA championship by sweeping the 100 and 200 meters. A day earlier, Gilstrap posted a 10.37 in a qualifying heat to barely miss breaking the seemingly untouchable state record of 10.33 in the 100.
“I feel like I’m the fastest man in Georgia, and I feel like I proved it,” Gilstrap said. “I didn’t get the record, but that wasn’t my aim. My goal was to help us win the team title, to make our school and community proud. We did that.”
The 5-foot 9-inch, 175-pound Gilstrap will run track and play football at Middle Tennessee State next year. He won five medals Saturday, including two as member of Miller Grove’s 1,600- and 400-meter relay teams.
In Class AAAAA, Parkview’s Ethan Kasson won the 400 with a blistering time of 47.43 seconds to lead the Panthers to a dominating performance, scoring twice as many points as runner-up Mill Creek. The other team champions were Warren County (A), Westminster (AA), and Monroe (AAA).
The Northview-Walton showdown in the state’s largest classification (AAAAA) was decided by the No. 2 doubles match, with Northview hanging on for its fourth consecutive state championship.
With the team score tied 2-2 and the other matches finished, players and fans from both undefeated powerhouses gathered around closely to see Northview’s Matt Hacker and Taishi Nogata rally with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over Walton’s Drew McIntrye and P.J. Verstraete.
“We had that first set and gave it up, but we knew we could do it in three ,” Hacker said. “It was fun playing with everybody watching, and our teammates rushed the court after the final point.”
Northview (21-0) won without one of its best players, Tulane-bound Trevor Getz, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Northview’s Matt Smiley and Andrew Goodwin won at singles, while Walton’s two team points were earned by Mark Verstraete and the doubles team of Alex Doherty and Sean Foley.
“To me, it was the two best teams in the state,” Northview first-year coach Robert Hunter said. “Everybody was hanging out every point there at the end, and we were fortunate to win.”
It was the first loss of the year for Walton (16-1). “It was full of drama, and I think Northview’s experience prevailed at the end,” Walton coach John Evans said.
In Class AA, the Blessed Trinity girls defeated Greater Atlanta Christian 3-0, while the Westminster boys edged Blessed Trinity 3-2. In Class A, the Athens Academy boys won 3-0 over Walker, and the Brookstone girls slipped by Walker 3-2.
Lovett’s Bo Anderson had four goals and four assists in a 16-5 victory over Harrison for the boys’ all-classification championship. After the final buzzer, the team ran onto to the field to hug goalie Austin Heaton, who had 20 saves. Heaton’s mother died of cancer just before the season.
“This year started with a funeral and ended with a state championship,” Lovett coach Jim Buczek said. “It was real good to see how the kids care about each other.”
Meanwhile, the Chattahoochee girls pulled off a 9-7 upset over four-time defending champion Milton.
St. Pius forward Zach Elstad had a pair of goals in a 3-0 win over West Hall for the Class AAA championship. St. Pius scored three times in the first half, with Stephen McGill heading in a goal within the game’s opening two minutes. In Class AAAAA, Marist’s William Raffety scored the game winner in a 2-1 win over McIntosh. The other championship games were played late Saturday night.