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Buford boys, North Hall girls win Region 7-AAA track titles

POSTED: April 17, 2014 11:14 p.m.

DAWSONVILLE — After a quiet first day of the Region 7-AAA track and field championships, Buford had to make up plenty of ground to win its second straight boys title.

The Wolves caught up. Literally.

Buford utilized its speed on the second day of the annual meet, winning five sprinting events to score 148.5 points and successfully defend its region crown Thursday at Dawson County High.

“I knew we had a chance, but you still have to show up and run,” said Wolves coach David Snell, whose team scored 110 points on Day 2. “The kids worked hard all year, and I’m very, very proud of them.”

The girls’ competition saw North Hall win eight total events and score 162.5 points, improving on last year’s second-place finish.

Top-four finishers in each event qualify for the Class AAA Sectionals next Friday at East Jackson High in Commerce, with a chance to advance to the state meet the following week.

While the Lady Trojans held a fairly comfortable lead for the majority of the two-day span after winning five field events Wednesday, Buford’s boys didn’t have it quite as easy.

The Wolves led North Hall by just 3 « points with one event remaining, the 1,600-meter relay, and couldn’t afford to finish behind the Trojans in the race. Buford ended up second, North Hall ended up sixth, and the Wolves held on for the win.

White County won the race, using the 10-point swing to jump ahead of the Trojans and end up second overall.
“Just two great teams, North Hall and White County,” Snell said. “They’re very competitive, and it was a fun day.”

Buford opened the day with first place in the 400-meter relay, then won all but one individual sprinting event. Evyn Cooper placed first in the 100 and 200, and Justin McCray dominated hurdles competition with victories in both events.

On Wednesday, David Curry provided the Wolves with a win in the pole vault, and Brandon Mangram won the triple jump.

That was enough to offset North Hall’s strength in the distance events, which the Trojans ended up sweeping.

“You know that coming in, so you have to be strategic,” Snell said. “The more details and specifics you can give your kids about how to run the races and who’s competing where, I think it helps them.”

North Hall entered the day with 81 points and led White County by 21 after Wednesday wins by Bryce Schuebert in the 1,600, Malik Gill in the high jump and Destin Bennett in the shot put.

The Trojans piled up the points Thursday by taking the top two spots in both the 800 and 3,200. Quintin Miles and Schuebert breezed through the shorter race, then Zack Hill and Miles jumped ahead early again in eight-lap event later in the evening.

White County remained steady throughout the meet, with wins by Maurice Sutton in the long jump and Dalton Whitfield in the discus during Wednesday’s field events. Caleb Stephenson spoiled Buford’s chances of sweeping sprinting events by holding off Khalil Anderson in the 400 on Thursday.

Trini Puente fueled North Hall’s girls with three individual wins while serving as the final leg of the Lady Trojans’ first-place 400 relay team.

After winning the long jump Wednesday, she started the final stretch trailing Buford, but outpaced Tyra Williams to complete the rally.

“She’s really my only competition here, so I knew I had to beat her, because we really wanted to beat Buford,” Puente said. “They had a really good time to start the season, and ours wasn’t so great.”

Puente’s closest race came against her own teammate five events later.

She held off Gabrielle Hoffman to win 100 hurdles, edging her fellow Lady Trojan by three-tenths of a second. They crossed the finish line in almost identical fashion, but Puente’s 16.06 was enough to edge Hoffman, who won the pole vault and the triple jump Wednesday.

“I really wanted her to win, because she wins every time,” Puente said.

Puente had another close race against Williams in the 200, clocking a 26.06 to hold off the Buford sprinter by 0.48 seconds.

North Hall took all but one field event to lead White County by 21.5 at the end of Day 1. Harper Seymour highlighted the throwing events with wins in the shot put and discus.

Puente was the Lady Trojans’ only individual winner Thursday, but North Hall placed consistently enough to hold off the Lady Warriors’ distance threat Jenna Gearing, the defending state champion in the 3,200 and a two-time cross country state champion.

Gearing won the 3,200 with ease, and also took first in the 1,600 and helped the White County win the 1,600 relay.

Her sister, Kaitlyn Gearing, placed first in the high jump, then challenged Buford’s Erin Marsh for 300 hurdles title before ending up second.

Four-tenths of a second allowed Kristen Mitchell to defending her 800 title, rallying past Buford’s Megan Ward on the final stretch for a 2:21.25 time.

Maia Caldwell-Booker, the defending state champion in the 100, ran a 12.60 to place first in an event she hasn’t competed in much this season. The North Carolina signee has battled a hamstring injury throughout the year, but was still one of only two sprinters at the meet to finish in less than 13 seconds.

That was still a far cry from her 11.95-second time that won her a state title a year ago in Albany, but she doesn’t plan on missing any more time as she prepares for sectionals.

“I just have to get back into my routine,” Caldwell-Booker said. “I can do it in a week — I did it last year. I’ve never had a year where I’ve been 100 percent. I’m trained on getting my time down on a week’s time.”


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