Girls state track meet
Where: Hugh Mills Stadium, Albany
When: 4 p.m. today, 9 a.m. Friday, 12:15 p.m. Saturday
For directions and the program of events, visit www.ghsa.net
Flowery Branch girls track team has one thing in mind heading into today’s state meet in Albany: survive and advance.
"Our goal specifically is to get out of that qualifying heat and advance to the finals," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells said. "We’ll build on it from there."
The Lady Falcons qualified for state in 11 different events with sprinters Erika Rucker and Sam Salyers taking on the bulk, combining to qualify for seven.
Rucker won Region 7-AAA titles in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meters and as part of the 4X100 meter relay team.
Salyers won region in the 100 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles and also qualified as part of the region’s second-best 4X100 meter relay team.
Both will begin their quest for a state title today with finals’ qualifying heats.
"I’m looking forward to the tough competition," Salyers said, "and seeing if my body can push through the heat because Albany is super-hot."
For Rucker, the focus is on doing just what her coach has preached.
"I just want to survive and advance," she said. "Like coach has been telling us, we just have to get past the first mark and do our best on the first day."
For Sorrells, there’s little doubt that success is in the cards for his two sprinters.
"They’re leaders out here on the track," he said. "Their work ethic is outstanding and when you combine great work ethic, talent and coachability, you’re going to have success every time.
"It’s why they’ve been successful and why they’ll be successful."
Both girls began running their respective events in middle school, except for the 300 meter hurdles which Salyers didn’t start until last year when she was a sophomore.
Both girls point to the relay events as being their favorites because of the team aspect, and both girls share one other commonality: prayer starts every race.
"I pray a lot because my nerves get going," Salyers said. "When I pray it brings me back to my (focus). If I didn’t do that I’d go up to the line and be a nervous wreck."
For Rucker, it’s more about the letting go.
"I pray before every race and ask God to let me do my best, whatever that may be," said the sophomore. "I leave it all up to him."
Sorrells, as well as his girls, are aware of the tough competition they’ll be facing this weekend — no Flowery Branch sprinter has ever made a finals.
But to them, satisfaction comes from the ability to properly guage the direction the program is headed.
"There are schools out there that are notoriously better in the sprints," Sorrells said. "So there’s some catching up to be done.
"But I think it will be a good measure of out progress this year and as a program."
And for Salyers and Rucker? Well, the two wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t like a good challenge.
"We feel like we need to be challenged to get better," Rucker said.
Also competing for Flowery Branch this weekend will be Desirae Cason (4X100 and 4X400 meter relays), Kayla Smith (relays and high jump), Kiara McCue-Woods (1600 meters and 3200 meters) and Rajeanna Jarrett (triple jump).
McCue-Woods will compete in the 1600 meter finals today and the 3200 meter finals Friday. She comes in with the second-best time in the state (five minutes, 14 seconds) in the 1600 meters next to Riverwood’s Bret McDaniel (5:10) and the best time in the state in the 3200 meters by more than two minutes.
Gainesville’s Sha’Doris Godwin will compete today in the 400 meter and 200 meter preliminaries. She will be joined by teammates Shelbee Carter, who will vie for a state title in the triple jump, and Hailey Solomn in the discus and shot put.