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Youthful track and field talent key for Gainesville High girls in Hall County championship performance
The Gainesville High girls track and field team poses on the podium after taking first at the Hall County championship meet.

For the Gainesville High girls track and field program, they all chipped in at the Hall County Championships last week.

And it was done largely by a young group of Lady Red Elephants, which is encouraging news to their coach John Corbett.

“Coming in, I thought we had a chance to win,” Corbett said. “It’s where we expected to be, but we did see some performances that we did not expect on the girls’ side.”

On Day 1, it was a dominant performance by Gainesville’s 3200-meter relay team, setting a new school record (10 minutes, 34.05 seconds). Then in the individual events, the Lady Red Elephants were just as strong, carrying a two-day total of 150 points to beat second-place Flowery Branch (128) at Cherokee Bluff High.

However, the most inspiring effort was last-second replacement Cynthia Martinez, a freshman who pulled ahead late to take second in the 800.

“It was a shock to the entire team when she took the lead with 200 meters to go,” Corbett said. “I glanced up in the stands at our team, and they were standing up in disbelief. She just held it all the way down the straightaway and came within a split second of winning it.”

That energy for the young runner carried over into Monday’s voluntary practice to open spring break.

“We had practice (Monday) morning even though it’s spring break, and she (Martinez) was the first one ready to go,” Corbett added. “I think (her performance) was eye-opening. I’ve told her all season I seem to believe in her more than she believes in herself ... but I think that 800 kind of woke her up a little bit.”

Another freshman for Gainesville, Ashley Thompson, was in the winning two-mile relay with Ashley Sosa, Maybel Moran and Taylor Sturdivant. Thompson also won the 3200 with a new school record (12:10.17) and captured second in the 1600.

Lady Red Elephants freshman Jada Robertson earned points in the 200, 400, high jump and long jump.

“Her ability to cover so many different events (is incredible), and she does it with a smile on her face,” Corbett said. “She’s got untapped potential once she starts believing in herself.”

Three seniors scored points in Gainesville’s winning effort. 

Early on Day 2, senior Byankah Cavazos ran a first-place time in the 400 (1:03.05), which was more than a full second better than her preliminary run.

Individually, Sosa was second in the 3200 (12:34.63) and third in the 1600.

According to Corbett, his two distance runners work well together.

“With the two of them, there is no animosity or jealousy,” Corbett explained. “Ashley Sosa appreciates what Ashley Thompson is able to do because it makes her better. Thompson appreciates Sosa’s maturity and experience.”

Thompson’s advantage is long distances, Corbett says. She finds her rhythm after a while, and once that threshold is met, she’s hard to stop.

“The ceiling is so high for Thompson, once she gets a little bit stronger and mature,” Corbett said.

Sophomore Lauren Ware won the pole vault for Gainesville (9 feet, 2 inches).

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