That’s the thought that will likely be on the minds of several local athletes as the boys track and field state championships begin Thursday in Jefferson.
Region 4AAAAAA champion Marietta is one of the favorites to win the Class AAAAAA title. The Blue Devils have won four state championships, most recently tying McEachern in ’08, but they have yet to challenge for a spot on the podium since that last crown.
Marietta has athletes vying for titles in 12 events, and its 1,600-meter relay team has an opportunity to score points as well. Westlake, Roswell, Newton, Mill Creek, Shiloh, Kennesaw Mountain, Hillgrove and 2012 Class AAAAA champion Brookwood are also among the favorites.
“We were a pretty consistent team at the state meets in the 2000s, but we haven’t found ourselves on the podium in a while,” Marietta boys coach Nick Houstoulakis said. “This year, we have a strong senior group going to state, and our field and track athletes all have a shot at getting points, so we’re really excited.
“Shiloh has some good jumpers, and they’re strong in the short sprints. Brookwood can throw everything at you. They’re a well-rounded team that has shown consistency over the past couple of years.
“We have points we can get in several events, and across the board, we see points we can steal. It never goes how it should on paper at state. The most consistent team will be the most successful.”
Campbell hurdler Allan Frye is looking to win another 300 hurdles title and take home his first championship at 110, while McEachern’s 1,600 relay team is hoping to duplicate the Class AAAAA crown it won a year ago. Wheeler’s Adel Yoonis, who won the Class AAAAA 800 and 1,600 runs last season will run race the 800 again this season, and be part of the Wildcats’ 1,600 relay.
The sleeper team of the meet could be Hillgrove, which had several athletes place in the top three of last week’s sectional, including winners Jaylan Reid (shot put) and Demetrius Duggans (100).
“We’re excited about our opportunity and for being mentioned in the hunt with some great schools,” Hillgrove coach Antoine Prince said. “This is the first time we’ve had this many athletes competing, and it’s the first time we’ve had a chance to get on the podium in our seven years as a program. I think the guys are ready to show what they can do.”
Kell, Sprayberry and Pope finished first, second and fourth in last year’s Class AAAA meet, though third-place Creekside was later disqualified, moving the Greyhounds to third. This year, Kell is entered in only four events, while many of the favorites, including Pope, Bainbridge, Mays, Cedar Shoals, Greenbrier, Northside-Columbus, Starr’s Mill and Stephenson, are entered in as many as seven events.
The Greyhounds’ Patrick Fleming returns to compete for another 1,600 championship.
“We’ve had some strong teams the last two years and this year is no different,” Pope coach Jerad Johnson said. “I think we can do well at the meet and come back with another podium trophy. We have six guys competing in eight events and they all have the tools to generate some big points for us.”
Allatoona will also have some representation in Class AAAAA. Trey Oates, who won the Class AAA pole vault last year and led the Buccaneers to an 11th-place finish, is hoping to add to his championship haul.
Walker, Whitefield Academy, North Cobb Christian and Mount Paran Christian will have a hard time getting past overwhelming favorites Athens Christian, Landmark Christian, Eagles’ Landing Christian and Darlington for the Class A private-school championship.
North Cobb Christian athletes are entered in five events and one relay, while Mount Paran has one entrant. Walker has three overall, and Whitefield has four athletes in five events.