On the eve of spring break, Hall County high schools had one more priority to take care of — the county track and field championships at Cherokee Bluff. Eighteen running events remained on the Friday schedule and concluded with an awards presentation.
Riverside Military Academy (193) took home the gold for the boys followed by Gainesville (130.50) and North Hall (98.25).
Gainesville (158), Flowery Branch (128) and Chestatee (100.50) rounded out the top of the girls leaderboard.
Click here for the final team standings and individual event results.
Friday was a bit different, though, for the coaches and athletes of Cherokee Bluff. This event had been circled on Bears head coach Matthew Brick’s calendar since he accepted the job.
“I got the chill bumps when I saw the first bus pull up,” Brick said.
“I believe this event is pretty eye-opening for the county.”
For junior Sierra Wainer, it marked the beginning of her legacy. A new school means a new track and field program with no pressure to match a former superstar. For her brother senior Devon Wainer, the event embodied the program’s overall capabilities.
“It shows us how we can challenge everybody else,” Devon said. “Just because we’re a new school doesn’t mean we’re going to suck. It means that we’re going to try to be better than everybody. That’s the amazing thing about a new school. Everyone thinks, ‘They’re first year. They’re not going to be so great.’ We’re going to break that barrier.”
The opening of Cherokee Bluff signified a fresh start for Devon, a place where he could jump in and immediately become a role model.
“For me as a senior, it’s a stepping stone for underclassmen, ‘Hey, this is how we are supposed to be,” Devon said. “This is how positivity and encouragement comes in — bringing everybody up as a whole school.”
It’s a role he’s personally worn since the birth of his sister, Sierra. If he played basketball, she played basketball. If he ran cross-country, she ran cross-county.
Sierra followed Devon to Cherokee Bluff, and so began their mission of bringing recognition to the purple and white. She became the first Bear to place in the county meet on Wednesday, achieving a new personal record (5:36.58) in the 1600-meter race. Devon cheered her on from the inner grass.
“He pushes me a lot,” Sierra said. “He’ll run round the field while I’m running and say, ‘Sierra, you’ve got to run faster.’ It’s great.”
The junior struggles with self-confidence. Coach Brick builds her up in practice, Devon tests her speed on the weekends, but placing in competitions remains her biggest confidence booster.
When asked how it felt to place first in the 1600-meter and third in the 3200-meter, she lacked the right words to express her feelings.
After each race, she would jog to the grass and fall to her knees. Beating her previous 1600-meter personal record of 5:40 provoked a baptism by celebratory water, her mom obliged. It had been two years since she achieved a personal record.
Sierra’s body couldn’t catch up to her emotions.
“She’s probably going to be bragging about it,” Devon said of Sierra’s feat. “Actually she was (Wednesday), saying, ‘I’m a Hall County champion. You can never beat me now.’”
The special sibling rivalry will undergo a different challenge this May when Devon graduates and begins college, but he still remains hopeful of what Sierra can accomplish for Cherokee Bluff.
“I see amazing things for her, definitely in the mile, cross country also,” Devon said. “I think she can get around the 5:10, 5:20 range. It’d be amazing if she did that.”