By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
What: Georgia Track and Field State Championships
Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
When: Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4
Cost: $7 each day
Thursday (Competition begins at noon): All field events (All classifications); 1,600-meter run final (All classifications)
Friday (Competition begins at noon): Qualifying heats for all running events (AA – AAAAAA); 3,200-meter run final (All classifications)
Saturday (Opening ceremony at 11 a.m.): Finals for all running events (All classifications)
Once again, the state’s top athletes will converge on Jefferson to compete in the boys State Track and Field Championships. This year there will be more medals and hardware to pass out, as there will be seven individual and team champions instead of five – a byproduct of adding Class AAAAAA, while splitting Class A into public and private divisions.
Here’s a quick primer for Georgia Olympics XLII:
The skinny: Last year’s Class AAAAA champs, Brookwood, will have a tough time repeating and winning its third team title in four years. This year’s team competition appears to be a toss-up. Head-to-head battles in the 110-meter hurdles (Lowndes’ Devante Watts and Brookwood’s Jay Lawson), 1,600 meters (Mill Creek’s Tyler Woodrome and Walton’s Brian Sullivan) and 400-meter relay (Mill Creek and Grayson) will be worth the price of admission.
Teams in the hunt: North Gwinnett, Mill Creek, McEachern, Hillgrove, Marietta, Kennesaw Mountain, Brookwood.
Other athletes to watch: Richard Delphin, Roswell (discus); Jeremy McDuffie, Shiloh (long jump and triple jump); Demetrius Duggans, Hillgrove (100 and 200 meters); Cory Nichols, McEachern (800 meters).
The skinny: The state’s second-largest classification has had a history of being wide open and this year is no different. The 400-meter relay final should be a classic with M.L. King, Cedar Shoals and Creekside vying for the top spot. The pole vault battle could produce a state record as Tray Oates of Allatoona and Jeff Jernigan of Lakeside-DeKalb will push each other, while Christian Walker of Mays and Justin Crawford of Hardaway will duel for the long jump title.
Teams in the hunt: Cedar Shoals, Grovetown, Mays, Northside-Columbus.
Other athletes to watch: Evan Berry, Creekside (100 and 200 meters); Darius Watkins, Grovetown (100 and 200 meters); Derrick White, Lithia Springs (200 and 400 meters); Brad Hort, McIntosh (1,600 meters); Qua Stocks, Woodland-Cartersville (high jump).
The skinny: Carrolton, one of the state’s most dominant programs, is going for its fourth state championship in a row after winning AAA the last three years. Vanderbilt football signee Taurean Ferguson of Jonesboro will try to win both the 110 meter- and 300-meter hurdle titles, but he will be pushed by a talented field that includes Jackie Childs of Westover, Xavier Gates of Woodland, and Western Carolina track signee Solomon Bolds of Sandy Creek.
Others in the hunt: Sandy Creek, Marist, Carver-Atlanta.
Other athletes to watch: Ryan Clark, Banneker (200 and 400 meters); Roc-M Nesbit, Carver-Atlanta (discus); Kenneth Brinson, Marist (discus); Malik Broughton, Veterans (high jump).
The skinny: With Carrollton moving up a classification, St. Pius appears to be the favorite, led by Daniel Haugh in the discus and shot put. But Elbert County, the 2011 Class AA champs, will be in the mix as well with sprinters Tyshon Dye, who signed to play football at Clemson, and Marquice Dye leading the charge. The long jump battle involving K’Lan Harris of Henry County, Tre Owens of Chapel Hill and Tyler Gibson of Peach County should be fun to watch.
Others in the hunt: Chapel Hill, Appling County, North Oconee, Cedar Grove.
Athletes to watch: Kevin Johnson, Appling County (110 meter- and 300-meter hurdles); Darius Freeman, Cedar Grove (200 meters); Witt Nix, North Hall (3,200 meters); Quintavious Poole, Washington County (400 meters).
The skinny: The state’s second smallest class has not had a repeat champion since Charlton County in 2005-2006. Last season’s champion Putnam County will be hard pressed to buck the trend. Lamar County, led by its 400-meter relay team that includes football standouts Lance and Lawrence Ausin, will vie for the title with Calhoun.
Others in the hunt: Westminster, Fitzgerald, Jefferson, Brooks County, Greater Atlanta Christian.
Other athletes to watch: Christian Drake, Pelham (100 meters); Tyrys Darrisaw, Brooks County (110 meter- and 300-meter hurdles); Sebastian Willer, Calhoun (discus).
Class A – Private
The skinny: Athens Christian is the clear favorite to win its third consecutive team title and its fourth since 2007. The Eagles are paced by twins Josiah and Justin Brooks, along with jumper Demetrius McWhorter and thrower Jordan Pickerel. Our Lady of Mercy will be in the mix, led by junior football standout Christian Coleman, who is a threat to win the long jump, as well as the 100 and 200 meters.
Others in the hunt: Landmark Christian, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Darlington, Pace Academy.
Other athletes to watch: Kenny Selmon, Pace Academy (110- and 300-meter hurdles); Reilly Friedman, Galloway (3,200 meters); Jalen Myrick, Savannah Christian (100 meters).
Class A – Public
The skinny: With Athens Christian out of the way , the field is wide open for the first public school team champion. Terrell County looks to be the favorite, led by Jerkerious Scott in the 100 and 200 meters.
Others in the hunt: Twiggs County, Central-Talbotton, Claxton, Jenkins County.
Other athletes to watch: Perfect Robinson, Twiggs County (100 and 200 meters); Raytez Jenkins, Central-Talbotton (400 meters).