JEFFERSON — North Hall’s Luis Gonzalez was among a group of three runners leading the pack in the state finals of the 3200-meter run at the Georgia Olympics on Friday at Jefferson Memorial Stadium.
He was running second behind St. Pius X’s Austin Sprague for nearly the entire race until taking over the lead in the sixth lap. With 700 meters remaining, however, Preston Jones of Columbus High took over first, and Gonzalez knew he’d have to put it into high gear.
“I saw the Columbus kid make a move, so I was just thinking ‘Alright, a new challenger,” Gonzalez said.
In the final 200 meters, Gonzalez sprang out to the lead and held off Jones and Sprague to win his first state championship.
Overcome with emotion, the senior raised his arms to his face in the infield, barely able to contain the excitement and thrill of accomplishment.
“You won?” a fellow runner asked in awe. “Are you serious?”
Gonzalez only nodded, struggling to find the words.
“I’ve wanted this since I was a freshman,” said Gonzalez, who has signed to run cross country at Truett-McConnell College. “Coming out with a win — I mean, just being here was incredible. But coming out with a win is too amazing for words.”
Gonzalez finished the race in 9 minutes, 28.78 seconds, a personal record, more than two seconds ahead of second-place Jones. It was just his fourth time ever competing in the event. His first was a win in the Hall County championships.
“I was just kind of running it before. Today was supposed to be the day I learned how to pace it and run it the right way,” he said. “Before the race, though, I was just thinking that this is my last race. Just run it, but run it smart, and let it come out how it comes out. I’m thankful this is how it worked out.
“It’s a great way to end my career at North Hall.”
North Hall junior Tucker LoCicero, who also ran the event and finished in 16th, had something to add to Gonzalez’s finish after the race was over.
“It’s my turn next year,” LoCicero told his teammate.
Flowery Branch’s Drew Garland ran the 3200 in Class AAAA, falling just short of scoring a point for the Falcons. He finished ninth in the event with a time of 9:50.25.
The 3200 was the only final taking place on Friday, but a number of preliminary races were also run.
Chestatee speedster Brandon Thompson led the way in Class AAA, qualifying in the 100 and the 200. He took fifth in the 100 to begin his day, running a time of 10.86 seconds, and topped it with a third-place finish in the 200 at 21.68 seconds.
Jackson County’s Yohan Reynolds also qualified for two events in Class AA, taking eighth in both the 110 high hurdles and 200 intermediate hurdles. He finished with times of 15.65 and 40.21, respectively.
Buford qualified in three events on the day. Thomas Wilson took sixth in the 400 with a time of 50.65 and Ronald King placed third in the 200 at 22.33. Both were members of the 400-meter relay team that finished seventh with a time of 43.06 seconds to begin the day.
Buford also competed in the preliminary for the 1600-meter relay, but was disqualified due to unsportsmanlike conduct.
The state meet continues today in Jefferson. Opening ceremonies begin at noon and presentation of trophies are scheduled for 5:40 p.m.