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North Hall girls, Gainesville boys win county track and field championships

Puente, Woodard claim three first-place finishes apiece

POSTED: March 15, 2014 1:27 a.m.
NAT GURLEY | The Times/

Flowery Branch's Brian Young hands off to Clayton Thayer on the final leg of the boys' 3200-meter relay Friday afternoon at Flowery Branch.

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By the time the night’s final two events rolled around, there wasn’t much left to decide. North Hall’s girls and the Gainesville boys had already cruised to track and field titles at the Hall County championships on Friday at Flowery Branch High.

But Gainesville’s Marcquel Woodard didn’t care. The Red Elephant senior closed out his night in perfect fashion, rallying the 4X400-meter relay team from behind to win a first-place medal. Woodard’s run made him a perfect 3 for 3 in gold medals and boasted Gainesville’s boys to a second straight county championship.

The Red Elephants racked up 176.90 points on the night to cruise past second-place North Hall, which finished with 143.70 points.

“I stepped up as head coach last year and didn’t expect to win it with the margin we had,” Gainesville coach Nick Niesielowski said. “And then to do a repeat this year with a fairly substantial margin, I just praise the good Lord that

He has given me good kids who are equipped and able and want to come out and compete.”

North Hall’s girls, meanwhile, dominated in the field events and were steady and consistent on the track. The Lady Trojans claimed first place with a total of 181 points.

Meet host Flowery Branch finished with 155.5 points on the girls’ side, while reigning champion Gainesville finished with 155 points.

“We did as good as we could,” North Hall coach Drew Rogers said. “We’ve had a real good day. Some of our fourth, fifth and sixth-place runners did really well, too. I can’t think of anyone who had a bad day.”

It would be harder to find a Lady Trojan who had a better night than Trini Puente. North Hall’s sophomore won three gold medals to go along with a silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles, playing a pivotal role in the Lady Trojans’ run toward a county championship.

“We wanted to win this meet so bad over Flowery Branch,” Puente said.

Puente’s night started with a win in the girls’ long jump (16-02.5) and continued when she served as North Hall’s final leg in the 4X100-meter relay, which finished with a time of 51.38.

After a rest, Puente returned to the track to finish a close second to teammate Gabrielle Hoffman (16.29) in the 100-meter hurdles. Two events later, it was Puente celebrating her third gold medal of the night when she won the 200-meter dash (26.84), setting a school record in the process.

“(Puente) has been running pretty well, but she was probably better today,” Rogers said. “Her and Gabby are our sprinter leaders.”

North Hall’s girls had the most first-place finishes among field events with four. Two of those gold-medal finishes came from Harper Seymour. She finished first in the shot put and discus, a pair of events she claimed top finishes in at last year’s state meet.

Gainesville’s Kabree Randolph finished first in the girls’ triple jump, and second in the long jump.

The girls’ scorers were close once the running events started, with Flowery Branch and Gainesville closing in on North Hall, which led after the field events.

Flowery Branch earned wins in the 1600-meter run by Kaylie Tanner (5:37.32) and in the 400-meter dash by Heather Moore. Gainesville, meanwhile, started its comeback with a win in the 100-meter dash by Alandria Griffith (13.36).

After Flowery Branch and Gainesville closed within 3« points of North Hall following the 100-meter dash, the Lady Trojans started to separate themselves with a few solid showings in back-to-back events.

Hoffman and Puente finished first and second, respectively, in the 100-meter hurdles to give North Hall a boost.

The score was reported around the same time North Hall’s first and second-place finishes in the pole vault were added to the team scores, giving the Lady

Trojans an 18-point advantage with four events remaining.

Then Puente earned her win in the 200 dash, Makayla Ellis won the 3200-meter run (12:07.33) and North Hall led by 30 points heading into the final event.

For the second consecutive season, Gainesville’s Woodard and Orrin Ragland were the most decorated Red Elephants.

Woodard claimed individual victories in the 400-meter dash (51.38 seconds) and the 800-meter run (2:05.44), defending both of his titles from last year. Woodard finished out the night by securing Gainesville’s title in the 4X400 relay, winning the last lap in blowout fashion.

“Me and my coach really work on making sure I do everything right in practice,” Woodard said. “I just make sure I come to practice every day and work hard, and it all works out.”

Ragland, meanwhile, defended his individual championship in the triple jump (43-5) and then earned a title in the 100-meter dash (11.49). He also defended his title in the 200 dash with a time of 23.42.

The performance by Ragland was his first meet of the season, after he dealt with an injury earlier in the year.

“We had a meet this past Tuesday and we didn’t even take (Ragland),” Niesielowski said. “Then we had an invitational this past Saturday and we didn’t even use him in all of his events. So we’ve really been babying him and trying to get him healthy.

“He’s healthy now.”

North Hall’s boys finished with a meet-high seven gold medals (3 in field events), while Gainesville finished with six gold medals.

The Red Elephants were aided by a plethora of second and third-place finishes. Between both field and track events, Gainesville’s boys finished with a combined eight-second or third-place finishes, which earn points toward the team totals.

West Hall’s boys finished fourth with 83 points, while East Hall finished fifth (58.50), Riverside Military sixth (45.70) and Chestatee sixth (43.70).

Chestatee’s girls finished fourth with 84 points and West Hall finished fifth with 53.50 points. East Hall’s girls finished sixth with 13 points. Both of Johnson’s teams finished last.


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