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High school track: Gainesville wins region title
Gainesville High junior Blake Sims races to the finish line during the 4x100-meter relay of the Region 7-AAA track championships Tuesday at West Forsyth. - photo by For The Times

CUMMING — A small lead after one day turned into a runaway region title for Gainesville High’s boys track team.

Leading Flowery Branch by just four points after the field events, Gainesville took to the track Tuesday and turned that four-point lead into a 30-point victory and a berth in the Class AAA state track meet.

“It was truly a team effort,” Gainesville coach Todd Wofford said after his team posted 117.5 points to win the Region 7-AAA track meet Tuesday at West Forsyth. “We got points from pretty much all the events that we were supposed to.”

That included a first-place finish in the 4x100-meter relay, where Tai-ler Jones, Blake Sims, Teryan Rucker and Xavier Ervin blew away the field with a time of 42.75 seconds, which was nearly a second faster than second-place West Forsyth.

Wofford believes that the relationship between the four football players that comprise that relay team helped lead them to victory.

“Those guys have been around each other from football so they have a good understanding of what they need to do,” Wofford said.

Especially with a region title on the line. Gainesville’s track team joins the boys and girls basketball teams, the football team and the boys tennis team as programs that have claimed region titles this year for Gainesville.

That alone made winning the region title more special for Wofford.

“I’m happy for Gainesville track to be back where it has been,” he said. “It’s been known for years as being a good track program.”

With strong and fast runners, along with field competitors like Paul Malquist, Josh Jackson and Chris West, a region title has been on Wofford’s mind from day one.

“I knew we had the potential for going to state,” he said. “Everything lined up right this year to make a run.”

In order for that to happen, Gainesville had to secure points during every event.

Although the relay team was the only first-place finisher for the Red Elephants, Gainesville scored points with a second-place finish from Malquist in the 400-meter (50.88), a third and fifth-place finish from Sims (11.21) and Jones (11.35) in the 100-meter dash, two fifth-place finishes from Ervin in the 110-meter hurdles (16.36) and 300 hurdles (43.48), a second and fourth-place finish from Sims (22.67) and Jones (23.52) in the 200, a third-place finish from Malquist in the 300 hurdles (41.97) and a fourth-place finish by the 4x400 relay team of Pablo Alberto, Ervin, Malquist and Jones.

With the top-two finishers qualifying for the state meet, Gainesville will send its 4x100 relay team, Malquist (400 meter and pole vault), Sims (200 meter) and West (high jump) to compete in the event that begins May 7 in Jefferson.

A strong field of competitors has Wofford not knowing what will happen at the state meet.

“You never know at state,” said Wofford, who believes Malquist, West and the relay team will place at state. “We just need to do what we’ve been doing all year.”

Other qualifiers for the state meet are: North Hall’s Nolan Clark (first in the 3,200) and Cody Barger second in the 3,200, and the 4x400 team of Jordan Chaffin, Luis Gonzalez, Travis McEnaney and Darian Roman; West Hall’s Terrell Penland, who finished first in the 100; and Flowery Branch’s Scott Chilton, who won the region title in the 400.

While all those qualifiers highlighted the finale of the region tournament, the biggest surprise came from second-place finisher West Forsyth, which finished 11th out of 12 teams and scored 12 total points at last year’s region meet.

“If I had to attribute success it would be to the kids and the fact that they finished races,” West Forsyth coach Clayton Tittery said. “We knew it would be close for second and we knew that every point would be important. We weren’t going to give up no matter what.”

That mentality allowed the Wolverines to finish 1 1/2 points ahead of third-place North Hall, which was more than Tittery could ask for.

“We all felt that Gainesville was going to be way out in first place,” he said. “But we did much better than anyone thought.”

Headed to state for West Forsyth is the 4x100 team of Robert Lewis, Tyler Lott, Shaeem McClaren and Linze Zhao, who finished second to Gainesville with a time of 43.15; Lott, who placed first in the 200 (22.63) and second in the 100 (11.10); and the 4x400 team of Zhao, Cole Carter, Jake Sloan and Logan Kells, who won the region title with a time of 3:30.20.

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