Commerce track and field coach Chas Hardy coach said the focus is never on the competition, just Tiger athletes improving. But that didn’t mean taking home a region title wasn’t satisfying.

The Commerce boys won the Region 8-A Public championship with 211 points, finishing 55 points ahead of second-place Washington-Wilkes. The two-day region meet, held at Social Circle, concluded Friday (April 30).

“It absolutely is (satisfying),” said Hardy, who is in his eighth year guiding the program. “The kids have worked hard. It was a punch in the gut last year not being able to compete (due to COVID). I felt like we had a pretty strong team last year, and we lost some kids that didn’t have a senior year in track.

“So, it’s good that these kids have gotten to be back out here this year and be able to compete.”

Commerce will compete at sectionals Saturday (May 8), which it will host at Banks County High School.

“A lot of competition is going to be there,” Hardy said. “In Class A, there’s a lot of speed. There’s going to be a lot speed on display … a lot of kids that can run and jump. We’re going to try to go out there and compete and make sure we get some kids, hopefully, to Albany.”

The state meet is set for Albany’s Hugh Mill Stadium May 13-15.

Commerce’s region-meet dominance included distance-running standout Brandon Martin winning the region’s high-point award. The senior swept the distance events with victories in the 800 meters (2:05.60), 1,600 meters (4:35.96) and 3,200 meters (10:12.04). Martin leads Class A-Public in all three events. Martin also contributed to a first-place finish in the 4 x 800-meter relay.

“He’s earned every bit of that,” Hardy said. “He works hard. He works hard 365 days a year. He’s trained for that. That’s his love, and that’s his lot in life. That’s what he does. He just runs. You can find him in the rain, you can find him in the snow, you can find him any day, he’s going to be on the road getting his miles in. The hard work has paid off for him.”

Meanwhile, Trey Garnto provided a sweep of the hurdle events, winning the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.72 and 300-meter hurdles with a time of 41.22.

Freshman Sammy Brown enjoyed a strong region meet as well, winning the 400 meters (52.94) and finishing as runner-up in the 200 meters (23.08). He also contributed to a victory in the 4 x 400-meter relay and a second-place finish in the 4 x 100-meter relay.

On the girls’ side, Commerce finished third with 86 points, led by Paden Bell’s region high-point earning performance. Bell won four events — including three in one day — in a prolific showing from the sophomore. She won one sprint event, the 400 meters (1.01.7), and then took gold in the three distance events — the 800 meters (2:42.79), 1,600 meters (6:07.87) and 3,200 meters (13:31.31). Bell won the 400 meters, 800 meters and 3,200 meters all on Friday. She delivered the 1,600-meter win on Wednesday.

“Paden is just a warrior to do the races that she’s doing in the order that she has to do them in the same day,” Hardy said. “That’s just mental toughness. She wins those races by being mentally tough … She’s a competitor. Those are the kids you like coaching.”

Here are the other top performances from Commerce athletes from the region meet. Those who finished in the top four will compete at sectionals.

BOYS

•Lambdin Hardy won the pole vault with a career-best and Class A-Public leading height of 13-7.

•The 4 x 800-meter relay team of Bryson Flint, Brandon Martin, J.J. Morris and Josh Zelaya finished first with a Class A-Public state-leading time of 8:46.

•The 4 x 400-meter team of Jackson Morris, J.J. Morris, Garnto and Brown finished first with a Class A-Public state-leading time of 3:38.4.

•Wesley Stilley won the discus (113-09).

•Elijah Burns won the shot put (45-10.5).

•J.J. Morris placed second in both the 800 meters (2:08.02) and 1,600 meters (4:45.59).

•Colin Hall placed second in the pole vault (11-6).

•Mason Gaddis finished second in both the discus (107-08) and shot put (41-1).

•The 4 x 100-meter team of Brown, Creed Dunbar, Trey Garnto and Dreylan Martin placed second (44.19).

•Andrew Pascucelli placed third in the 400 meters (55.83).

•Jafet Carreon placed fourth in the discus (103-11).

•Dreylan Martin placed fourth in both the 100 meters (11.51) and 200 meters (23.19).

•Peyton McClure placed fourth in the 3,200 meters (11:40.34).

GIRLS

•Lauren Massey won the pole vault (9-0).

•Sarah Webb placed second in the discus (84-11).

•Lorin Pursley placed second in the shot put (30-8) and finished third in the discus (79-2).

•Gracie West placed fourth in the shot put (27-10).

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