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Barger aiming high at track state championships
North Hall distance runner a favorite in 1,600 and 3,200
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Georgia Olympics

Local qualifiers

Class A

Commerce — Jamal Browner, 400 relay; Jamir Walton, 400 relay; Jeffrey Henderson, 400 relay; Khyrie Harris, 110 high hurdles and 400 relay; Marquavius Little, 400 relay; Micah Eason, shot put; Terrick Ramsey, 110 dash, 400 relay, 200 dash.

Riverside Military — Andres Payne, 1,600 relay; Bill McCoy, 1,600 relay; Fernando Weiner, 1,600 relay; Gage Bolden, 1,600 relay, Steven Pluhar, 1,600 relay, Tarvin Dukes, discus; Toby Ogunnya, 1,600 relay.

Class AA

Buford — C.J. Moore, 400 relay and 100 dash; Eric Barr, 400 relay; Michael Fortson, 400 relay; Ronald King, 400 relay; Seon Jones 400 relay. Martinez Johnson, wheelchair 800 and 200.

East Hall — Kerry Mata, 300 IM hurdles.

Jefferson — Mason Hammrick, pole vault.

Class AAA

Chestatee — Tyler Armour, pole vault.

Gainesville — Desmond Hamilton, long jump; Trey McKeithen, triple jump and 110 high hurdles.

Johnson — Kyle Stacey, shot put.

Lumpkin County — Taylor Guthrie, triple jump.

North Hall — Ben Satterfield, 200; Brandon Lawson, 1,600 and 800; Cody Barger, 3,200 and 1,600; Drew Bryant, discus; Patrick Chappell, shot put.

West Hall — Jason McCurdy, 400; Josh Pendley, 3,200.

Class AAAA

Flowery Branch— Austin Eckenroth, pole vault; Drew Garland, 3,200; Kenny Slavik, 3,200; Maurice Riden, 800 and 1,600.

Habersham Central — Austin Allen, shot put; Wesley Wong, triple jump.

North Hall senior Cody Barger has a mammoth target on his back as the man to beat in the distance events at the Georgia Olympics that opens today at Jefferson Memorial Stadium.

While he'd certainly prefer to be running pressure free, like when he shocked the state and won the 3,200 in Class AAA as a sophomore, Barger thinks he is mentally strong enough to handle the pressure.

Not only has he won the 3,200 before, he carries the fastest time in the state this season (9 minutes, 10 seconds) and also won the state cross country title against the same crop of top contenders this season.

Barger is also a favorite to win the 1,600 that runs tonight, after qualifying with the third fastest time at region (4:22.71).

In the 3,200, Barger has set the bar high with plans of trying to shatter the state record (9:07).

"This year I have more to lose," Barger said. "I'm going to just go out there and give it all I got."

Barger is one of a handful of local athletes looking to cap off the season with a state title.

Flowery Branch's Austin Eckenroth, a state runner-up in Class AAA last season, had the best qualifying height in Class AAAA with a pole vault of 14-feet, 6-inches.

Also, the Buford 400-meter relay team of C.J. Moore, Seon Jones, Eric Barr, Michael Fortson and Ronald King qualified for state with a Class AA-best 42.04 at region.

Based on qualifying heights and times from region, other local athletes with a legitimate shot of winning include Jefferson's Mason Hamrick (pole vault), East Hall's Kerry Mata (300 IM hurdles) and Riverside Military's Tarvin Dukes (discus).

Barger had a bit of a different approach than most athletes when it came to qualifying for the two-mile: He wanted to do the bare minimum to ensure a spot at state and not overextend himself, which may result in any number of twisted, pulled or strained muscles.

He still carries the lessons of last year when he rushed back from a stress fracture, and as a result, ended up with a shin splint and had to forego a chance at state.

"I was making sure I didn't get hurt this year," Barger said. "I was doing the bare minimum to make sure I qualified for state."

That, however, isn't the same attitude Barger will carry onto the track for the state championship race in each of his events. The 1,600 and 3,200 are unique in that there are no qualifying heats for the finals.

"I'm going to go all out and just give it 100 percent in the finals," Barger said.

In Class AAAA, Flowery Branch is sending four athletes to state. Drew Garland and Kenny Slavik will compete in Friday's 3,200, and Maurice Riden is a competitor in the 800 and 1,600.

Eckenroth is looking to win the state title this season, after coming up just shy of winning the state title in Class AAA with a 15-foot vault in 2010.

He qualified for state with a 14-6 this year at the Region 8-AAAA meet.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity to go to state for all of our athletes," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells said.


Regional events