ALBANY — Local athletes posing for photos at the top of the podium with first-place medals around their necks became a common sight Friday in Albany.
Five competitors from schools within Jackson County won championships during Day 2 of the state track and field meet in Albany.
Three Jefferson athletes and two from Commerce took gold in the field-event session of the second day of competition. A total of eight local athletes have earned state championships through the first two days.
Robbie Head (shot put), Jason Burke (high jump) and Ryder Pagel (pole vault) won state championships for Jefferson Friday, while Shannon Segars (long jump) and Tucker Flint (pole vault) won titles for Commerce.
The Jefferson boys stood in first place in the Class AAA team standings after Day 2 with 46 points, 14 points ahead of second-place Westminster. The Commerce boys led Class A Public with 55.5 points. Gordon Lee was 11 points behind with 44.5 points.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson girls still lead Class AAA with 58 points, 27 points ahead of second-place Greater Atlanta Christian.
Here’s a look at how the top local athletes fared Friday:
•Head won the Class AAA shot put with a heave of 51-4.5, which he nailed on his third throw. He had three throws of over 50 feet in earning the title.
“It feels great, honestly,” Head said of the championship. “We’ve all been working all season, and so it’s all paying off now.”
The junior was able to battle back from recent back injuries to win state gold.
“It was hard going past region just with problems with my physical health, and then coming back and doing this felt amazing,” Head said.
Recent rest for Head paid off as he hit 50-2 on his second attempt and then dialed up the winning throw of 51-4.5 on his next attempt.
He said he was happy to contribute to Jefferson’s success in the state meet through the first two days of competition.
“I’m just proud of everyone, especially the girls yesterday (Thursday),” he said. “I’m proud of them. Everyone has been working really hard, so it’s all coming together.”
Head added a sixth-place finish in the discus with a throw of 128-3.
•Burke cleared 6-6 to win the Class AAA boys’ high jump in only his second year in the sport. He credited the success of his Jefferson teammates at the state meet for motivating him to earn his own title.
“I felt pretty good about it coming in from yesterday (Thursday) with everyone winning,” Burke said. “My friend, the other high jumper, JoJo (Smith), she won, so that kind of pumped me up more. I was like, ‘I can’t let you beat me like that.’ It was just a great feeling to win.”
Burke placed second a year ago in Class AAAA, which also helped motivate Friday’s performance.
“This year, I wanted to come in and win,” he said.
Burke cleared 6-6 on his second attempt at that height, which ended up being the winning jump.
“When I did that jump, I knew I won,” he said. “When I looked at the heat sheet, no one was over 6-4, so I was like if I can just get 6-6, I think I can come out with the win.”
Burke is still just getting started in his high-jumping career, having just completed his second season in the event. He recently signed with Emmanuel College, where he’ll continue to high jump. Burke said he hopes to clear at least 7-0 or 7-2 during his freshman season there and compete for the conference title.
•Pagel soared over the bar at 14-6, bettering his personal record (PR) by a foot, to win the Class AAA boys’ pole vault. The junior admitted to feeling a little tired after the lengthy competition, during which seven athletes cleared 13 feet.
“It’s really hot,” he said. “I’m just glad that I could hold it together long enough to be able to do what I needed to do, and I’m just glad that everybody here had a pretty good day.”
Pagel defeated teammate Tripp Bullock to win the title. Pagel and Bullock were the only competitors to clear 14 feet. Bullock set a new PR in clearing that height and finishing as the state runner-up.
“I’d like to say thank you to Tripp for just being there with me, and I’m glad for him,” Pagel said. “He PR’d, too.”
Pagel said competition with Bullock in a meet is nothing new with the success both have enjoyed.
“It’s been like that for two years now,” he said. “It’s kind of become second nature.”
In the win, Pagel used a bigger pole, and Friday marked only the second time he’d used it. The decision resulted in the best day of his career.
“I was thinking I might be able to clear 14 (feet), but that first attempt at 14-6, I knew that I had it,” he said.
•Segars covered 22-2.5 to win the boys’ Class A Public long jump and close out his junior season. After his victory, Segars said he was “still a little shaken up.”
“I’ve been wanting to win since my freshman year,” he said. “It’s really important to me — a pretty big deal.”
Segars covered the winning distance of 22-2.5 on two separate jumps. His final jump of the competition — if he had not scratched — would have set a new PR of 24-1.
“That’s just a really good jump, but I got the win anyway, so I’m just really happy,” he said.
In the victory, Segars out-jumped Hancock Central’s Qeontavious Ivey, who defeated Segars last year.
Segars, the top-ranked long jumper in the field of competitors at the state meet this year, said the win was “one of the greatest moments of my life, really.”
“I got third last year, and I was really, really wanting to get the gold this year,” he said. “So, I’m really happy.”
•Flint cleared a height of 13-6 in winning the boys’ Class A Public pole vault. Flint didn’t miss on an attempt until the bar was raised to 14-0 — after he’d already secured his title.
Flint, a senior, said it was “great to end on a win” after having produced similar results in wrestling with a state title in February.
“And then coming out and doing a different sport and getting a state championship in that, it feels awesome,” Flint said.
Flint, the top-seeded pole vaulter coming into the state meet, out-dueled teammate Lamdin Hardy (13-0) in the win as the Tiger duo went 1-2 in the event. Flint said he was “super proud” of the freshman for his runner-up finish. Though competitors in the event — and the final two vaulters remaining after the bar moved to 13-0 — the two helped push each other along Friday.
“We do the same thing for each other every day at practice,” Flint said. “He’s like my brother. We just worked hard together, and we encourage each other to do our very best, and that’s what we did today.”
Flint now leaves Commerce High School with three individual titles to his credit — two in wrestling and one in track and field.
“It feels great,” Flint said. “I thank all my coaches and all my friends and family for always supporting me in everything I do.”
•J.J. Morris took second in the Class A Public boys’ 1,600 meters after leading for most of the final lap. He finished with a time of 4:48.49, just behind Gordon Lee’s Jasper Wilson (4:47.11), who overtook Morris down the final stretch of the race.
•Demarco Hernandez finished third in the Class A Public boys’ 1,600 meters with a time of 4:54.08.
•DaJuan Wood placed eighth in the Class A Public boys’ high jump with a height of 5-8.
•Katherine Law finished as runner-up in the Class AAA girls’ 3,200 meters with a time of 11:44.57.
•Riley Thornton finished fourth in the Class AAA boys’ 3,200 meters with a time of 9:34.17.
•Shane Shelafoe placed in two distance events Friday, starting in the morning with a sixth-place finish in the Class AAA boys’ 3,200 meters after leading for most of the race. He finished with a time of 9:40.85. The 3,200 meters was pushed back from Thursday due to heavy rain that night. Then on Friday evening, Shelafoe finished eighth in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:28.38.
•Jackson County’s Jonathan Fountain took eighth place in the boys’ Class AAA shot put with a throw of 44-11.