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Prep track: Local runners fare well in second day of state meet
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JEFFERSON — The day started slow but finished with a flurry Friday for local athletes at the Georgia Olympics on Bryan-Keen Track at Jefferson Memorial Stadium in Jefferson.

Amid disqualifications and last-place finishes by area runners in the first four events, and six out of the nine events held at the meet Friday, North Hall’s Nolan Clark and Nick Long, Flowery Branch’s Norvell Van and Daniel Martinez and the Jefferson 1600-meter relay team showed they had the legs to compete at the highest prep level.

In the only state final of the day, the 3200-meter run, Clark and Martinez earned their respective teams points by placing in the top five in the event.

Clark, with a time of 10 minutes, 2.03 seconds, finished as the state runner up to Tucker Hartley of Westminster (9:47.52).

“I ran a great race, it’s the best I could have wished for at state,” Clark said. “I kept pace and ran my time, I just didn’t win.

“I wanted to win for my senior Nick Long. He’s got three titles and I wanted one, but I think he will be okay with second.”

Clark’s second-place finish put his team in a tie for third in the team standings with Westover. Both have 18 points.

Flowery Branch’s Martinez kept his team in a tie for first with Westminster at 30 points a piece by finishing fifth with a time of 10:13.24.

“It’s state and I scored points for my team and that’s what matters,” Martinez said. “I’m not happy with my time, but I scored points.”

For Clark and Martinez, both juniors, the future looks bright.

“I am going to get my legs stronger (in the offseason) and work on my speed for the sprinting part,” Martinez said, “and be back next year.”

In the fifth event of the day, North Hall’s Nick Long was the first runner from Hall County to qualify for today’s state finals events.

Long, who ran in lane 2 of the 800-meter run, finished second in his preliminary heat with a time of 2:01.33, .07 seconds behind Clarkston’s Kuanlyal Chol.

“I ran a pretty good race,” the North Hall senior said. “I just wanted to qualify and I feel like I ran good.”
Coming off the first turn of the second lap, Long had to make up ground after getting pushed out of the inside lane.

“I got boxed out which was my fault,” said Long, who won a state championship in the 1600 meters on Thursday. “I had the finals on my mind though and really just wanted to qualify.

“There are some good guys running (today) in the finals and they are probably more sprint-oriented than I am, but I’ll make up for it with hard work.”

Flowery Branch’s Norvell Van, who qualified for state in the pole vault, 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and 1600-meter relay was disqualified for a false start in the 110-meter hurdles, but redeemed himself in the 300 hurdles, finishing in second place in his heat, and garnering the third-best time in Class AAA (39.54).

With the second-place finish, and a time that bested his region meet time by more than a second, the Flowery Branch senior qualified for today’s 300-meter hurdles final.

“(The win) was what I needed,” Van said. “I haven’t been doing good.”

Coming in first in Van’s heat was Jamal Patterson out of Henry County with a time of 38.29. Patterson along with Riverwood’s Amaechi Morto, tied for the best qualifying time in the event.

“(In the finals) I want to run as hard as I can and try to get first,” Van said. “If I can get my steps down, I think I can get first.”

Jefferson, who is in fifth place in the team standings with 18.6 points, qualified its 1600-meter relay team for today’s state final race.

The Dragons team, led by Elijah Wright, who also qualified for the 110-meter hurdles state final earlier in the day, placed third in their preliminary with a time of 3:30.67.

The top 1600-meter relay finisher in Class A was Wilkinson County with a time of 3:25.10.

In Friday’s first event, the 400-meter dash, Wesley Milton of Jefferson finished third in his heat with a time of 51.850 and will be in lane seven in today’s 400-meter finals.

Trent Hicks of Region 4-A’s Taylor County ran the best 400-meter time of the day in Class A (50.180).