For the last four years, the Banks County High School boys’ track and field team sat atop the mountain once the region meet had ended.
The Leopards liked the last four views so much, they decided to make a fifth trip to the mountain top last Friday in Homer. The Leopards scored 142 points to win their fifth-straight region title. The Leopards bested Elbert County by 22.5 points.
“The boys really showed out,” head coach Will Foster said. “We knew where we could get big points and the athletes did a great job of staying focused on our game plan and not getting distracted by other teams having good performances in other event areas.
After the 200 (meter dash), team scores were announced and at that point, we were down a point or two to Elbert. That did not rattle our guys, and we went on to win the next three events. I was very proud of how our athletes stayed humble and focused throughout the meet. After winning four in a row, there is a different kind of pressure, but our guys stayed focused on the task at hand and executed when it mattered.”
Foster credited last Wednesday’s field events with giving the Leopards a “great start” to get an early lead in the meet.
“We scored big points in both the throws and the pole vault, and that gave us the points we needed to overcome some big scores from other counties in the horizontal jumps,” Foster explained.
The Leopards had five first-place finishers. Wes Ledford (2:04.97) won the 800-meter run; Griffin Stephens (10:04.56) won the 3,200-meter run; Jacob Lehotsky (41.94) won the 300-meter hurdles; the 4x400 relay team finished with a time of 3:31.83; and Jackson Ramey (46-7) won in shot put.
The Leopards qualified for 11 events at this Saturday’s state sectionals in Bremen: 800-meter dash (Ledford), 1,600-meter run (Stephens and Buck Ledford), 3,200-meter run (Stephens), 110-meter hurdles (Terrance Walker), 300-meter hurdles (Lehotsky and John Coggins), 4x400 relay, triple jump (Ledford), pole vault (Sean Hall and A.J. Davidson), discus (Ramey and Walker) and shot put (Ramey and Cody Dodge).
“The key for us at sectionals is to treat it like a state championship final in most events,” Foster said. “Sectionals is a strange beast to conquer. No team points, no finals, just heats run for time to advance.
“We can’t have the mentality of ‘What is the least we have to do to qualify for state?’ Instead, we are going to go in treating it as a state final where we want to leave nothing up to chance.”
For the Lady Leopards, Emily Adams helped pace the team to an overall third-place finish. The team scored 104 points and finished behind Elbert County (164 points) and Oglethorpe County (153 points).
Adams was the lone first-place finisher in any event for the Lady Leopards. Adams claimed the region title in pole vault, jumping 8-0. Adams is through to sectionals for the Lady Leopards. Joining Adams in Bremen is Shaylyn Bailey and Taylor Speed (discus and shot put), 4x400 relay team, Casey-Ann Lane (100 and 300-meter hurdles), Anna Parker (3,200-meter run) and Alessandra Olivares (800 and 1,600-meter run).
“The girls competed hard and did everything in their power to give Elbert and Oglethorpe a challenge,” Foster said. “In what I would argue is the toughest track region in AA, our girls scored big points on two teams who have very legitimate shots at state podium finishes.
“We saw a lot of young talent rise up and face older competition without hesitation, and I am excited for years to come for these young ladies.”
Olivares turned out to be the surprise from both the Lady Leopards and Leopards, according to Foster.
“She will advance to sectionals in the 800, 1600 and 4x400 as a freshman. That is a big deal,” he said.
Overall, Foster thought both teams performed “really well.”
“I thought we looked like we were comfortable and had been in the position before,” he said. “With us having to host the meet, it was really up to the athletes to make sure they were prepared and I think we excelled in that area.
“The athletes handled their own warm-ups and did not need us (coaches) watching every detail to make sure they did everything right. I think our attention to detail and the time we spend building routines helped out.”
When it comes to sectionals, the familiar foes may be the ones who try and spoil part of Banks County’s state party.
“We have a good region and in most of the events, our region will send a lot of representatives to state,” Foster said.