When Flowery Branch’s Erika Rucker crossed the finish line of the 400-meter run Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany, she didn’t see any shadows: that translated to a Class AAA state championship for Rucker, a junior, who has been ranked one of the state’s best all season in the event.
Rucker ran a time of 55.53 seconds, which is just off her personal best time of 55.19 run earlier in the season. She said the final kick came when the stagger began to straighten out around the final turn.
“It felt amazing to win the state championship,” Rucker said. “I knew all season that I wanted to be a state champion.”
Rucker said her normal race strategy is to go out fast, lessen the pace slightly around the middle part of the race to leave energy for a final kick at the end.
The state title for Rucker is especially sweet knowing that she overcame a strained hamstring earlier in the season.
She purposely chose to focus on the 400 for state rather that the 200, which she also qualified for at the Region 7-AAA meet. She qualified for the 400 finals Friday with a time of 55.80.
North Hall’s Jordan Collins ran a clean sweep in the wheelchair division with wins in the shot put (6 feet, 9 inches), 200 (54.55) and the 800 (3:57.86).
Buford’s Maya Dillard finished third in Class AA in the 800 with a time of 2:22.28. On Friday, Gainesville’s Somer Graham finished seventh in the pole vault (9-0).
As a team, Flowery Branch finished eighth overall with 21 points.