Depth carries Marietta to sweep of Region 4AAAAAA track championships
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
April 20, 2014 04:00 AM | 2075 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta’s Khayvonn Benson, left, and North Cobb’s Kailon Brealond compete in the 800-meter run Saturday. Though Benson had to settle for a close second to Brealond at the Region 4AAAAAA championships, the Blue Devils came away with the team title. 
<Br>Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
Marietta’s Khayvonn Benson, left, and North Cobb’s Kailon Brealond compete in the 800-meter run Saturday. Though Benson had to settle for a close second to Brealond at the Region 4AAAAAA championships, the Blue Devils came away with the team title.
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
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MARIETTA — Marietta showcased its depth once again, winning both the boys and girls Region 4AAAAAA track and field championships Saturday.

The host Blue Devils scored 123.5 points to earn their seventh consecutive region title. North Cobb (101) placed second, followed by Harrison (84), Kennesaw Mountain (74), Campbell (71), McEachern (67.5), Hillgrove (47), South Cobb (30) and Pebblebrook (24).

“Coming in, we knew North Cobb and Harrison had some great teams,” Marietta boys coach Nick Houstoulakis. “We’re thankful the streak didn’t end (Saturday). We respect all of these schools, but we were confident and optimistic that, if we stay healthy, we have a chance to compete, and we did.”

The Lady Blue Devils dominated early, staking a 60-point advantage over McEachern after six field events and one running event. Once the track races began, the Lady Indians made a charge, but Marietta was able to hold them off and win its third straight girls region title with a score of 150.

McEachern (139.5) was runner-up, with Hillgrove (75), North Cobb (65), Campbell (59), Pebblebrook (43), Harrison (41), Kennesaw Mountain (37) and South Cobb (9) rounding out the standings.

“Everyone’s in a groove right now,” Marietta girls coach Chad Christman said. “We’re healthy and we’re performing well. Three in a row sounds good, and we’ll take it if we deserve it. Our goal is to get kids to qualify for sectionals, and the region title is a benefit.”

The top four finishers in each event will advance to the Class AAAAAA sectional, which will take place Saturday at McEachern.

Several athletes qualified for the sectional in more than one event, but only a few were able to quality with region championships in hand.

On the girls side, Marietta’s Elizabeth Hartley repeated her dual wins in the high jump and pole vault. She won region titles in both events last year and did so again Saturday, clearing 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump and 10-6 in the pole vault.

“It feels good to defend both titles,” Hartley said. “There were some new girls competing this year, so I was nervous not knowing what to expect from them, but I didn’t let the pressure get to me.

“It’s tough to focus on different events, and even harder to win more than one, so I worked hard in practice and managed to pull through (Saturday).

North Cobb’s Shanel Burr also won two events, claiming titles in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles with times of 14.03 seconds and 44.27, respectively.

Burr easily controlled the 100 hurdles, and she overcame Hillgrove’s Chelsea Crayton at the finish of the 300. Crayton stutter-stepped at the final hurdle and hit it going over. The miscue slowed Crayton’s momentum, allowing Burr and Campbell’s Alexis Jones to pass her at the line.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” Burr said. “I don’t have the best start, but I can finish strong. I knew I had to catch up to people, so I just flowed into a rhythm and got past her at the end. It’s really exciting to be a two-time region champ.”

The Marietta girls won six events in all, including Nyasiah Mercado in the 800 (2:16.11), Mary Jeanne Assinzo in the 1,600 (5:23.29), Nia Seldon in the shot put (37-9¾) and Asia-Blu Wilson in the discus (104 ½).

Pebblebrook’s Bryana Robinson won the 100 (12.06), Harrison’s Mattie Rountree won the 3,200 (11:45.38) and Priscilla Womble of Kennesaw Mountain claimed the triple jump (35-11).

McEachern found success behind Alexius Walden in the long jump (17-9½), MaKenzie Dunmore in the 200 (23.81) and Cierra Dunston in the 400 (55.49). The Lady Indians also won both relays, the 400 (46.19) and 1,600 (3:52.04) relays.

The Marietta boys didn’t find a lot of individual championship success, but they made up for it with multiple top-eight finishes.

KirVonte’ Benson won the long jump (22-1), while Jack Henderson claimed the 1,600 (4:28.38) and edged Kennesaw Mountain’s Jacob Roberson by .47 seconds in the 3,200 (9:41.46). Henderson and Roberson sprinted the final 200 meters of the 1,600, with Henderson coming from behind in the end.

“I just had to go with Jacob,” Henderson said. “He went, and I went with him. I just had a little more left in the tank at the finish. That last lap was brutal, but competing with guys like him makes running fun.”

Kennesaw Mountain’s Robert Dunning, who missed last year’s region meet with soreness in his shins and feet, returned with a vengeance Saturday, taking home championships in the high jump (6-6), the 110 hurdles (14.19) and 300 hurdles (38.72).

“It’s awkward and exciting to win because of my injuries last year,” Dunning said. “This is a major comeback for me, and there’s still work to do. I want to get through sectionals and show off at state.”

Hillgrove’s Jaylan Reid was also victorious in the shot put (62-0) and discus (159-0).

“I expected to win the shot put,” said Reid, the returning state champion in the event, “but the discus was really competitive. I feel like I’m peaking at the right time, and things are going well.”

Other winners included South Cobb’s Tyler Green in the 100 (10.67) and 200 (21.39) and three North Cobb teammates — Anthony Simmons in the 400 (49.40), Kailon Brealond in the 800 (1:57.68) and Ty Evans in the pole vault (11-0). Pebblebrook’s Courtaz King won the triple jump (42-8½).

North Cobb’s 400 relay team also won (41.76), as did McEachern’s 1,600 relay (3:22.63).
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