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West Forsyth boys track team wins 7-AAA region championship
Gainesville's Malquist shines
Creekview's Chris Arvey and Gainesville's Paul Malquist battle it out for first place in the 400-meter dash Tuesday at Flowery Branch High School during the boys Region 7-AAA Championship Meet. Malquist placed first in the event. - photo by Sara Guevara Staff Photographer The Times
FLOWERY BRANCH — Despite placing first in only one event at the Region 7-AAA boys track meet, the West Forsyth Wolverines used a team effort to edge Gainesville by 7.5 points and take home the title Tuesday in Flowery Branch.

Gainesville won four events on the day, and took second in two more. West Forsyth won only the one event, but turned in second-place finishes in three events, third-place finishes in four events, and fourth-place finishes in four more events. That’s the kind of team effort that wins team titles, as the Wolverines proved.

Going into the final event, the 4 x 400-meter relay, West Forsyth held a slim half-point lead over the Red Elephants. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Gainesville hadn’t managed to beat West Forsyth in the event all season.

The same held true at the region championship as the West Forsyth teams placed first and fourth and Gainesville finished second, giving West Forsyth a final point total of 130.5 to Gainesville’s 123.

North Hall scored 77 points, Creekview 57.5 and Johnson 51.5 to round out the top-five teams.

The Red Elephants received strong performances from Paul Malquist and Blake Sims on the day. The two combined to score 38 individual points for Gainesville, with Malquist also adding another 10 on the first day of the event Friday by winning the pole vault.

Malquist began Tuesday in the 400-meter dash, which he won with a time of 50.02, two-tenths of a second faster than the other state qualifier, Chris Arvey from Creekview. Malquist then teamed with his fellow Red Elephants to win the 4 x 100-meter relay.

He followed that with a strong second-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles (41.49) and then helped the 4 x 400-meter relay team to the second-place finish (3:28.99). With that race, Malquist secured a spot in the state tournament in five different events, far and away the most in Region 7-AAA.

Despite his performance, Malquist isn’t satisfied.

“(The 4 x 100) time was pretty good, (but) could have (been) a lot better,” he said.

Malquist usually doesn’t run the 4 x 100-relay, but due to an absent team member had to step in.

Even when given praise, Malquist seems to ignore it. When congratulated on his 400-meter dash time, he just shrugged and said, “I just want to help my team win a region title.”

Despite his humility, Flowery Branch track coach Jimmy Sorrells described Malquist as “without a doubt the best athlete in the region.”

But Malquist wasn’t the only Red Elephant who impressed Tuesday. Sims won the 100- and 200-meter dash, both of which were hotly contested. Sims won the 100 by .09 seconds and the 200 by a mere .05 seconds.

Such a small margin of victory is not enough for Sims, who was not satisfied with his performance.

“I could’ve run faster,” he said of the 100-meter race that he won with a time of 10.92. “(My) start wasn’t very good.”

That’s not to say Sims isn’t confident.

When informed that he hadn’t managed to beat his personal best time of 10.7 seconds in the 100, Sims stated plainly, “I’ll beat it at state.”

Among the other runners who qualified for the state tournament was North Hall’s Ty McCormack.

After leading the 3,200-meter race from beginning to end, McCormack finished a half-lap in front of second place Justin Weaver of Pickens and set a personal best time of 9:05.35. The time would have been good enough for the state record, but to qualify for that honor the race must be timed at the state track meet.

Josh Millsap of West Hall won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.43 and Chestatee’s Emmanuel Ibarra won the 800-meter race with a time of 1:57.78.

A surprise win on the day came in the form of East Hall’s Kerry Mata in the 300-meter hurdles.

After suffering a knee injury earlier in the season, Mata had only competed in two other 300 hurdle races coming into Tuesday and wasn’t expected to win.

“It’s surprising,” Mata said. “I wasn’t expecting it cause I just got back.”

But Mata knows he still needs to put some work in before the state tournament.

“I need to work on my form in the turns,” he said as he fought to contain a smile at his victory.

All of Tuesday’s first and second place finishers will next compete in the state tournament from May 13-15 at Memorial Stadium in Jefferson.
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