JEFFERSON — It hasn’t taken long for Riverside Military Academy to make its presence felt in Region 8-AA.
After earning state playoff berths in football, basketball and tennis; the track team added six more while helping Riverside to a fourth-place finish in the Region 8-AA boys track championship Monday at Bryan Keen Track in Jefferson.
“We’re a small school, but we’re tough-minded,” said first-year track coach Chris Cottor. “These kids are always looking to do their best.”
Riverside scored 87 points overall to earn fourth place, East Jackson (103) finished third, Jefferson (118) finished second and
North Oconee (132) won the Region 8-AA title.
“It was a good day for us for the most part,” Jefferson coach Tim Corbett said. “We did what I expected in every event and I can’t complain.”
On the day, the Dragons qualified for four events in the state meet which will be held May 7-9 at Bryan Keen Track in Jefferson.
This year will mark the 39th straight time that Jefferson High has played host to the state meet.
Derrick Perkins and JJ Damons led the way for the Dragons as the team’s only individual region champions.
Perkins qualified for state by beating Riverside’s Hyung Oh by .07 seconds to win the 110 meter hurdles and Damons (22.77) won the 200 meter dash to qualify, beating Riverside’s Marlin Veazie (23.06).
“We got personal records in the discus and shot put and matched a personal best in the high jump (in Day 1 of the region meet), and those things really helped us,” Corbett said. “(Derrick) Perkins and Wesley (Milton) shined for us today and did what they had to do for us to be succesful.”
Wesley Milton qualified for state in the 400-meter run with a second-place finish and a time of 51.91 seconds. Milton was also the anchor leg for the 4X400 meter relay team that will be going to state. The team finished second to North Oconee with a time of three minutes, 31.30 seconds.
“In some places we could have done better,” Corbett said. “But sometimes it isn’t what you do or don’t do so much as what others do.
“We just didn’t have enough bullets, we’re a small group, but the kids did well and I’m proud of them.”
The Eagles, after what Cottor termed as a “bad” field events day Saturday, had to battle back from seventh place, and did so on the backs of Brad Baker, Veazie and Oh.
After Riverside’s 4X100 meter relay team qualified for state with a second-place finish (44.24), Baker, the Eagles’ lone senior, got the team’s first region title with a time of 52.02 in the 400 meters.
Baker’s time not only bested Jefferson’s Milton, but was also three seconds better than Baker’s previous personal best.
“He wanted this more than any kid I know,” Cottor said. “He had a tendency to gear down on the back 100, we told him to stop and now he’s turned the 400 into a sprint.
“He’s one of my leaders and I just can’t say enough good things about him.”
Veazie followed up Baker’s performance with an 11.27-second win in the 100 meters, despite delaying the race’s start with leg cramps.
“I didn’t hydrate well enough,” Veazie said. “But coach told me to tell the ref if I had a problem so I did.
“I’m excited to be going to state and I really want to run hard there.”
The cramps seemed to only be a momentary distraction as Veazie, despite finishing second to Jefferson’s Damons, set a personal record by running the 200 meters in 23.06 seconds.
“He’s just dedicated and wants it,” Cottor said. “He likes to be known as the fastest man.”
Banks County will be represented at the state meet by Jorge Diaz who finished second in the 3,200 meter (10:37).
Hyung was the only other individual qualifier for Riverside, finishing second in both the 110-meter hurdles (15.53) and the 300-meter hurdles (41.06).
“We strive for excellence at Riverside,” Cottor said. “We want our kids to be well-rounded and expect them to be the best they can be.
“I’m just so very proud of the kids. They committed themselves in January when it was cold and we were practicing in the snow, and have done everything we asked them to do all year.”