The sectional served as a qualifier for the upcoming state finals. The girls’ championship meet will begin Thursday in Albany, while the boys’ championship will take place a week later in Jefferson.
Marietta and McEachern qualified the most for the girls competition, with each having representation in nine events. Campbell will be represented in five events, while Wheeler, Walton, Pebblebrook and North Cobb will be in four each. Hillgrove qualified in three, Kennesaw Mountain two and Lassiter and Harrison will compete in one each.
First-place finishers included Harrison’s Sydne Wiggins in the high jump (5 feet, 6 inches), Kennesaw Mountain’s Shelby Smith was first in the pole vault (10-6), North Cobb’s Shanel Burr in the 100-meter hurdles (14.14 seconds) and Wheeler’s Natisha Dixon in the 300 hurdles (43.02).
McEachern teammates Cierra Dunston and MaKenzie Dunmore helped the Lady Indians record four first-place finishes.
Dunston, who entered the meet with the 10th-fastest time in the nation in the 400 at 54.70, improved on her time with a season-best 54.39. Dunmore raced to a runner-up finish in the event (54.64), nearly eclipsing her sixth-best national mark of 54.49 in the process.
The duo also showcased their talents in the 200, with Dunmore first in 23.82 and Dunston fifth in 24.35.
The pair were also part of the winning 400 (45.33) and 1,600 (3:46.42) relay teams. The 400 relay team entered the meet with the fifth-best national mark 46.32. Saturday’s time, which would have beaten the Class AAAAAA state-meet record of 45.69, now ranks among the nation’s best this season. McEachern’s 1,600 relay time is also among the nation’s best this season.
“We’re very pleased with how we ran (Saturday),” Dunmore said. “It’s been a difficult day, but a good one. We’re healthy and doing our best and we feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”
Marietta and North Cobb led local teams for the most events on the boys side, with 10 apiece. Campbell was next with eight, followed by Harrison with seven and five apiece for Kennesaw Mountain, McEachern and Wheeler. Walton will participate in four events and Hillgrove two.
Hillgrove’s Jaylan Reid placed second in the discus (151-2) and won the shot put (61-4), despite coming in with symptoms of a cold.
“I came in (Saturday) just wanting to get in the top eight, so I’m happy, considering I didn’t feel well,” Reid said. “I think I need to work a little more on my footwork for the discus, but I think, if I keep doing what I’m doing in the weight room, I’ll be OK for shot.”
Marietta’s KirVonte’ Benson won the long jump (22-10½) and 100 dash (10.70), and he placed fourth in the 200 (21.85).
“Winning the long jump right off the bat helped me out a lot in this competition,” Benson said. “I have huge confidence going into state because I’ve gotten better. That was my best jump of the season, and if I get on the board more, I can go even further. And if I get out the blocks better, I can improve my times in the sprints, so things are going well.”
Benson’s brother, Khayvonn, finished first in the 1,600 (4:26.14) and 800 (1:56.06), and they were both part of the Blue Devils’ fourth-place 1,600 relay team (3:20.99).
“My brother and I work really hard to get ready to show everybody we can hang with the top dogs in the state and come out with victories,” Khayvonn Benson said. “We work together every Sunday after church, and during the week, and the hard work is paying off. We run 100s, 200s, 400s, 800s and 1,600s together to keep us prepared.”
Kennesaw Mountain’s Robert Dunning raced to a first-place finish in the 110 hurdles (14.20), a runner-up showing in the 300 hurdles (38.27) and third in the high jump (6-6). He joined his teammates in finishing eighth in the 1,600 relay (3:23.11).
“I knew the competition was going to be good coming in, and my focus was really on just making it to state,” Dunning said. “I’m pretty happy about everything and excited to get to state.”
McEachern’s Bryce Glover won the triple jump (46-0), Walton’s Kenan Farmer won the 3,200 (9:44.24).