At region track meets across the state, team finishes meant just as much as the top-four-individual finishes. A team finish meant a lot of athletes had qualified for the GHSA sectionals.
With sectionals, however, there were no team points at stake, just individuals trying to finish in the top eight of their respected event to qualify for this week’s state meet. For the Banks County High School track and field teams, it’s safe to say the program had a successful sectionals in Bremen last Saturday.
Banks County qualified for 16 events at this week’s Class AA state meet, which begins Thursday at Valhalla Stadium at Berry College. Banks County will compete in both the girls’ and boys’ 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, as well as shot put, discus, 4x400 relay and pole vault. The boys’ team will also be competing in the 300-meter hurdles and triple jump.
“Our mentality going into sectionals this year was much better than last year,” head coach Will Foster said. “Our athletes were aggressive and did their best to not let others performances’ determine their fates.”
Those advancing to state for the boys’ team include Griffin Stephens (first place, 1,600 and 3,200 meters), Wes Ledford (first place, 800 meters; eighth place, triple jump), Sean Hall (first place, pole vault), Jackson Ramey (first place, discus; third place, shot put), 4x400 relay (third place), John Coggins (sixth place, 300-meter hurdles), A.J. Davidson (sixth place, pole vault), Buck Ledford (seventh place, 1,600 meters) and Jacob Lehotsky (seventh place, 300-meter hurdles).
For the girls, qualifiers include Taylor Speed (fourth place, shot put; eighth place, discus), Shaylyn Bailey (sixth place, discus), Anna Parker (sixth place, 3,200 meters), Emily Adams (seventh place, pole vault), Alessandra Olivares (seventh place, 1,600 meters; eighth place, 800 meters) and the 4x400 relay (eighth place).
“I was really impressed with both of our 4x400 teams,” Foster said. “They both put up season-best times in order to advance. After a long day in the heat, our athletes rallied and performed really well. They looked like teams who knew they were prepared and who were confident in their abilities.
“Our throwers also fared very well. Jackson Ramey put up big numbers in both throws to place well and advance. I look for him to have a big day this Friday. Speed and Bailey also threw very well. They both have been very consistent this year and that has paid dividends. Taylor’s experience is something she can draw confidence from, and she can also help Shaylyn stay focused and confident going into such a big meet. Wes Ledford’s performance at sectionals speaks for itself. He ran by himself at the front for 700 of the 800 meters. He is in great shape and knows what he has to do to put himself at the top of the podium on Saturday. Alessandra Olivares showed what type of competitor she is. She ran (three) hard races and was able to qualify in each. I am excited for her going into state. I think it is going to be a great experience and really put herself on the map in the middle distance events. Griffin Stephens was able to dominate both his races and qualify fairly easily. He will face some stiff competition on Thursday and Friday, but I know that he welcomes the competition, knowing it will drive him to perform at a high level.”
In preparation, Foster wants the athletes “sharp” ahead of the state meet, which means shorter distances and faster times at practice.
“I am a big believer in routine and consistency, so we won’t get too far from what we usually do,” he said. “We want to do our normal warm-up, normal types of workouts, and make sure we sweat each day. I like to think that following routine and having confidence in our process helps prevent mistakes from happening because we aren’t doing things we wouldn’t normally do.”