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Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year: Flowery Branch's Austin Eckenroth
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Flowery Branch’s Austin Eckenroth is The Times Boys Track Athlete of the Year.

Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year: White County's Jessie Dotson

Track and Field Coach of the Year: West Hall's Cindy Herford

Boys First Team All-Area

Imani Cross
School: North Hall
Grade: Senior
Shot put: Region champ, 7th at state, PR 49-9

Austin Eckenroth
School: Flowery Branch
Grade: Senior
Pole vault: Region champ, state champ; PR 16-8; Signed with South Carolina

Drew Garland
School: Flowery Branch
Grade: Senior
1600: Region champ, PR 4:29;
3200: Region champ, PR 9:48

Luis Gonzalez
School: North Hall
Grade: Senior
3200: Region champ, state champ, PR 9:28.8;
800: 2nd at region, PR 1:58.50

Mason Hamrick
School: Jefferson
Grade: Sophomore
Pole vault: 2nd at region, 3rd at state, PR 13-6

 

Ronald King
School: Buford
Grade: Senior
200: 5th at state, PR 22.2;
4x100: 7th at state;
100: PR 11.1

Witt Nix
School: North Hall
Grade: Junior
1600: Region champ, 6th at state, PR 4:26.3;
800: 3rd at region, PR 2:00.7

Dekerrio Ramsey
School: Commerce
Grade: Junior
Region champ in Long Jump, 400, 4x100;
2nd at region in Triple Jump, 4x400

Yohan Reynolds
School: Jackson County
Grade: Senior
110H: 4th at region, 7th at state, PR 15.72;
300H: Region champ, 7th at state, PR 39.23

Brandon Thompson
School: Chestatee
Grade: Junior
100: Region champ, 2nd at state, PR 10.61;
200: Region champ, 3rd at state, PR 21.68

Marcquel Woodard
School: Gainesville
Grade: Sophomore
800: Region champ, PR 1:57.67;
1600: 2nd at region, 8th at state, PR 4:27.06;
4x400: 2nd at region

Second Team

Pablo Alberto
School: Gainesville
Grade: Senior
400: 8th at region, PR 53.84;
800: 4th at region, PR 2:02.11;
4x400: 2nd at reigon

Destin Bennett
School: North Hall
Grade: Sophomore
Discus: Region champ, 9th at state, PR 139-6

Patrick Chappell
School: North Hall
Grade: Junior
Shot: 3rd at region, PR 45-3.5;
Discus: 3rd at region, PR 140-7

James Howard
School: Jefferson
Grade: Sophomore
Pole Vault: 3rd at region, 4th at state, PR 13-0

Ryan Kennedy
School: White County
Grade: Senior
Long Jump: 2nd at region, PR 21-6;
4x400: 4th at region

Neil Latham
School: Habersham Central
Grade: Senior
Discus: 2nd at region, PR 142-1;
Shot Put: 4th at region, PR 45-2

Carson Newman
School: Jefferson
Grade: Senior
Discus: Region champ, 5th at state, PR 144;
Shot Put: PR 44-11

Caleb Stephenson
School: White County
Grade: Sophomore
200: 5th at region, PR 22.72;
400: 5th at region, PR 51.87;
4x400: 4th at region

Skylar Toney
School: Riverside
Grade: Junior
Pole Vault: 2nd at region, 2nd at state, PR 13-0

Dalton Whitefield
School: White County
Grade: Sophomore
Discus: 3rd at region, 5th at state; PR 154-10 (school record)

Honorable Mentions

Will Brock, Jr., White County

Dallas DeFoor, Sr., Gainesville

Levi Fangman, Sr., White County

Jimmy Gault, Sr., West Hall

John Grogan, Jr., Habersham Central

Cory Jenkins, Jr., Dawson County

Quinn Jones, Sr., Chestatee

Joseph Lazano,, Jr., Gainesville

Tucker LoCicero, Jr., North Hall

Isaac Mize, So., East Hall

Jason McCurdy, Sr., West Hall

Colton Quinones, So., Gainesville

Terrick Ramsey, Jr., Commerce

Bryce Schuebert, Fr., North Hall

Tyshawn Simmons, Sr., White County

Nate Simons, Sr., North Hall

Kyle Stacey, Sr., Johnson

Kendall Weeks, So., Habersham Central

Jamond Witt, Sr., East Hall

Chase Yarbrough, Sr., North Hall

 

 

 

 

Austin Eckenroth’s first goal for his senior season was to clear 16 feet.

Not a problem.

Next, the Flowery Branch senior and pole vaulter set a goal of 16 feet, 8 inches, and at region he cleared the height to cruise to an 8-AAAA title. This summer, he’s eyeing 17 feet.

“It was a great year for me with a (personal record) of 16-8, fourth all time in the state of Georgia. That was definitely my peak of the season,” Eckenroth said. “Hopefully I can jump 17 at some summer meets.”

And it might not have been his best jump of the season, but the University of South Carolina signee also won a second consecutive state title at the Georgia Olympics in Jefferson, clearing a height of 15-5 3/4 to put a fitting cap on a successful high school career.

For his efforts, Eckenroth is The Times Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“He’s done a really fine job; now he’s got a chance to take it to the next level,” said Eckenroth’s club coach, Aaron James, who helps with the US Pole Vault development team. “I think the sport has helped him tremendously with who he is; it’s made him a better person, and in the past three years he’s become a much better pole vaulter.”

His high school coach, Flowery Branch’s Jimmy Sorrells, remembers the moment that both him and Austin realized just how good he could be.

The 2010 Georgia Olympics brought together what would eventually be three of the top pole vaulters in the state of Georgia in regards to overall height cleared in a meet.

Gainesville’s Paul Malquist, then a senior, would go on to win the event and set the state meet record with a jump of 16-8, but it took him three tries to clear 15 feet, the same height Eckenroth had already cleared.

The Flowery Branch sophomore settled for second place, just ahead of St. Pius X’s Nikita Kirillov, who set the overall height record in a meet later in his high school career before moving on to Georgia Tech.

“I’ll never forget that moment when he was doing it,” Sorrells said. “At that moment he realized, ‘I could jump with the big boys.’”

The next year, with Kirilov still in Class AAA and Flowery Branch up to Class AAAA, both the St. Pius X senior and the Falcons junior grabbed state titles. It was the first of two consecutive titles for Eckenroth to finish his high school career.

Sorrells has seen his progression from good to great.

“Athletically I knew the ability was always there, but the biggest thing I’ve seen with him is his emotional and mental maturity,” Sorrells said. “He’s learned to really focus on his goals, and by doing that he’s been able to hone in on his athletic skills, and obviously that shows in his performance.”

It’s been a meteoric four-year ride for Eckenroth, who first tried out pole vaulting in his freshman season at Flowery Branch. He said he had gone into the season looking to go to state as a high jumper like his older brother, when he saw a coach working with pole vaulters.

“I wanted to start high jumping. My brother went to state for high jump, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Eckenroth said. “They had a pole vault coach that came to help, I saw him help people out, went over to try it and it was pretty fun.”

He had chosen the sport that Sorrells calls the most challenging track and field event.

“There’s a lot of science involved in it,” the Falcons coach said. “In my opinion, pole vault is the most difficult and intense event out there, and it takes a certain kind of mentality to do it. Basically you cannot be afraid.”

“They’re calculated risk takers,” said James.

Eckenroth fit the pole vaulter’s mold with his physical skills, and after that first season he took his participation in the sport to another level. That was when he began to work with James and started putting more time into practice.

The extra work paid off. While he had jumped 12 feet at the region meet his freshman year and had fallen short of a state berth, just one year later he was clearing 15 feet to advance to state and the eventual, memorable second-place finish.

For Eckenroth, success in pole vaulting is due to two factors: His natural athletic ability, and the work he has put in.

“He’s tall, relatively fast, a little bit fearless and that’s a good thing, but he’s also pretty smart,” James said. “And he’s been busy, working real hard the last three years.”

Eckenroth has also battled through injury. Just prior to the start of the season he broke his hand, and he wasn’t able to return until later in the year, keeping him from improving on his 2010 state meet height of 15 feet, which he didn’t clear again until the end of his junior season.

Other then his initial improvement early on, his senior year saw his biggest leap.

“This year he’s kind of turned it on,” James said. “He went from 15-6 to 16-8.

“He’s just grown up; he made some mistakes and he’s gotten past those.”

He’s also gotten past the disappointing state meet, where an error caused him to clear a height of 15-5 3/4 when he thought he had cleared 15-6, which would have tied the Class AAAA record.

His high school coach put it into perspective after their appeal to the judges was unsuccessful.

“It is disappointing that it ended this way,” Sorrells said. “But I told him that today, on a bad day, he was still the state champion.

“He’s got a great career, two state championships and a runner-up finish.”

Eckenroth’s next challenge is to compete at the college level and in the SEC, one of the most competitive conferences for pole vaulting, according to James.

Eckenroth is excited for more challenges, and more heights to reach.

“They’re going to make me a lot faster and a lot stronger, and fix a lot of technical stuff,” he said. “(South Carolina) pole vault coach Kevin Brown is a great coach, and I think he can take me to the next level.”

Regional events