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Gainesville track teams sweep Hall County Championships
West Hall’s Beth Hildebrant clears the bar to tie a West Hall High record of 8 feet, 6 inches during the Hall County Track Championships at West Hall Tuesday afternoon. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

OAKWOOD — Gainesville proved to be the Hall County track and field team most capable of finding success in less-than-spectacular weather.

Fighting through temperatures hovering in the upper 30s on Tuesday at West Hall High, the Red Elephants swept the Hall County Championships with first-place finishes in both the boys and girls events.

The boys were seemingly unaffected by the atypical conditions, racking up 188 points to cruise past second-place North Hall by 84.5 points. The girls had more a battle on their hands, needing a first-place finish in the 1600-meter relay — the final event of the night — to edge second-place Flowery Branch 127-124.

Two different ways to win, but one shared opinion of the meet: The weather didn’t do anything to help.

“It made it tough, but it was bizarre — we had people PR,” Red Elephants boys coach Nick Niesielowski said. “If you warm up properly and your mind set is right, you can still hit good marks.

“They listened, finally, and it’s starting to come together.”

Gainesville placed first in seven boys events and three girls events to claim county bragging rights, improving on a second-place finish to North Hall from a season ago.

No Red Elephant was more decorated than Marcquel Woodard and Orrin Ragland, who each took home four gold medals to lead the boys team. They competed together for a win in the 1600 relay (3 minutes, 42.70 seconds) and also each finished first in a field event.

Woodard opened the day with a 18-foot, nine-inch long jump for his first win of the day, then sped his way through the 400 (52.55) and 800-meter (2:03.94) races with a pair of close wins.

He wrapped up his successful day by winning the mile relay alongside teammates Alex Longoria, Ragland and Esteban Salazar.

“It feels good, seeing how I didn’t get first at all last year,” Woodard said. “I’m just happy to be doing as well as I am.”

Ragland’s wins included the triple jump (39-7.75), the 200-meter dash (23.61) and the 400 relay (45.76), which he competed alongside Ithello Cross, Cameron Drake and Tony Tran.

The Gainesville girls chipped away at Flowery Branch’s lead with numerous top-three finishes when a win wasn’t plausible. Kabree Randolph was the first to take gold for the Lady Red Elephants by winning the triple jump (30-7.50), followed by Sara Hayes’ first-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles (50.41).

All Gainesville needed was a win in the 1600 relay to steal the win away from the Lady Falcons, and the team of Hayes, Randolph, Mia Buffington and Happi Sims responded accordingly with championship-clinching time of 4:22.93.

“It means everything to win the Hall County Championship,” girls coach Wayne Jones said. “I was shocked, looking at some of the times. We were expecting the numbers be a little low, but they were average. They could be better, but they were average.”

The Flowery Branch girls matched Gainesville’s win total, with Alisha Parks leading the shot put (34-10.5) and Brisha Latham securing the 100-meter dash title with a time of 13.9 seconds. Dayzjah Loving finished atop the 400-meter dash, edging teammate Heather Moore by a second at 1:02.97.

North Hall’s boys held off Flowery Branch with a strong showing the distance and field events. Witt Nix won the 1,600, edging the Falcons’ Nicholas Ashmead by less than a second at 4:39.68. Tucker LoCicero captured the 3,200-meter title later in the evening with a time of 10:10.10.

Patrick Chappell swept the throwing events for North Hall by winning the shot put (47-10) and the discus (138), an event he only tries during meets and never at practices.

“I just come out here and throw, pretty much,” Chappell said. “(The weather) pretty much changed everything. Your muscles are freezing. Everything is tight.”

Host West Hall placed fourth in the boys standings with 76 points, followed by Riverside (69), Chestatee (44.5), East Hall (23.5) and Johnson (17.5)

The Spartans’ girls team, last year’s county champion, placed third in the girls standings with 92 points. They defeated fourth-place North Hall by a single point.

Chestatee finished with 85 points, anchored by a pair of back-to-back top finishes in the distance events by Tori Mullinax and Sarah Beth English. Johnson rounded out the girls standings with 13 points.

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