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Teams off to hot start at region track meet
North Hall High's Ty McCormick heads for victory in the 1600 meter run during the Region 7-AAA track meet Friday at Flowery Branch. - photo by Tom Reed

Region 7-AAA meet

Team standings after Day 1

Gainesville High    51

West Forsyth    39.50

North Hall    37

Johnson        33.50

Flowery Branch    23.50    

Creekview    10.50

Lumpkin County    10

Pickens        8

White County    6

Gilmer        5

Chestatee    4

Lambert        3

West Hall    2

East Hall        1

FLOWERY BRANCH — It’s both easy and cliche to say that an athlete set the tone early.

But in the case of North Hall senior Peyton Wilhoite, it is also the truth.

Wilhoite hit the 171-foot, 1-inch mark on his first discus throw of the day — setting an unreachable bar for the other participants — en route to a Region 7-AAA title on Day 1 of the Region 7-AAA track meet Friday at Flowery Branch High.

With the win, Wilhoite also qualified for the Class AAA state meet which will be May 13-15 at Jefferson Memorial Stadium.

“After I got one throw in I was going after my PR (personal record),” Wilhoite said. “When you go all out, you’re either going to scratch a lot like I did in my last few throws, or hit 190.”

Wilhoite bested his previous PR and set a new school record April 22 when he threw 186-3 in a tri-meet at Jefferson.

In last year’s state meet, Wilhoite finished third, setting a new PR (159-11) by 12 feet.

“The last week or so gives me a boat load of confidence going into state,” Wilhoite said. “Going in knowing that state was won last year (by former Flowery Branch standout Daniel Drummond) on a 169-6 just is a big confidence booster.

“I’ll spend the next couple of weeks progressing and competing against myself because I want to get out to state and really heave one out.”

Wilhoite will be joined at state by the other qualifier from Region 7-AAA, Gainesville’s David McConnell, who threw a 139-05, good for a second-place finish in the region.

While Wilhoite was throwing his way to state, his North Hall teammate Ty McCormack was running.

McCormack, who ran the 1,600 meters Friday in 4:18.08 for a region title and berth at state, will be joined in Jefferson by Pickens’ Justin Weaver (4:23.17).

“It was a pretty good race for me,” said McCormack, who was off his PR by just a second. “It was the first time in about a month that I’ve gotten to run hard.”

McCormack, who won the Region 7-AAA cross country title this past fall and finished fifth in the state last year, said he was a little shocked that the pack kept up with him through the first three legs, so he kicked it into gear in the fourth and final lap.

“Qualifying for state was my main goal and I achieved it,” he said. “My teammate (Cody Barger) won sixth in the race too and it was his first time ever running the mile, which is huge for our team where points toward a team title are concerned.”

In the shot put, East Hall's Sterling Bailey won the region title (47-05.25), Johnson's Tre Lipscomb placed second (44-06.25) and Gainesville's David McConnell was third (42-11).

At the end of Day 1, however, it was Gainesville High that had the highest point total (51), with West Forsyth (39.50), North Hall (37), Johnson (33.50) and Flowery Branch (23.50) rounding out the top five.

Gainesville’s being at the forefront was due in large part to wins in the triple jump by Desmond Hamilton (44-02.50) and the pole vault by Paul Malquist (15-06).

“This feels good,” Malquist said. “I came in knowing that I should be the region champion and I wanted to make sure I got to state.

“My vault, though, was not good whatsoever. I got in my head and was trying too hard and I can’t do that. I’m glad it happened here and not at state.”

Malquist’s PR coming into Friday’s meet was 16-9.

Also helping Gainesville’s effort was Chris West.

West finished third in the long jump (21-02.00), an event he’d never competed in before to boost his team’s points. He also finished the day third in the triple jump (40-05.25) and the high jump (6-02).

“What really helped us today was a kid like Chris West going out and finishing third in the long jump,” Gainesville coach Wayne Jones said. “He hurt himself going to state today by putting the team first and I’m most proud of his efforts today.

“All in all though we put in some great performances today,” he added. “Desmond had a personal best and Malquist did a great job.”

Flowery Branch’s Austin Eckenroth finished behind Malquist in the pole vault with a jump of 15-00. Ben Booth of North Hall finished third, vaulting a 12-06.

Behind Hamilton, and also qualifying for state as the top two finishers did in each event, was West Forsyth’s Kyle Taylor (42-11).

In the long jump, Johnson’s Brandon Buncy (21-01.75) finished first with Taylor (21-00) taking second.

In the high jump, Flowery Branch’s Otis Clark (6-04) qualified for state with a region title while Johnson’s Ty Odem (6-02) also qualified with his second-place finish.

The boys Region 7-AAA track meet will continue at 10 a.m. Monday at Flowery Branch High with the running events.

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