Winder-Barrow girls’ pole vaulters Brianna Bailey and Ticia King say they feed off each other — if one is having a rough day, the other one probably will, and if one is having a strong day, so will the other.
Last Thursday, both had great days and finished at the top of the pack in the GHSA Class AAAAAA state meet at Carrollton High School. Bailey, a junior, won the state title with a personal-best vault of 12 feet, while King, a senior, finished tied for second with Johns Creek’s Anna Conroy with a jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.
“It’s awesome,” Bailey said, huddling with King under an umbrella as rain poured down following the competition. “I couldn’t have done it without Jesus, my family, and then my coaches and Ticia. I’ve had so many people that have always been there for me.”
“They had a couple of rough jumps early on and both of them were able to recover and have a huge day,” Winder-Barrow head coach Charlie Sparks added. “That’s just a testament to them. They have been working hard all year, and this was the end goal.
“And they accomplished what they set out to do.”
Bailey, who was third among the Winder-Barrow vaulters last season, stepped into the starting rotation this year following Breanna McNamara’s graduation after a third-place finish at state and rose to the occasion.
“This year was a lot different,” Bailey said. “There was a lot more pressure because my team needed me to be the best I could be, and I’m glad I didn’t let them down.”
King, meanwhile, improved from her fifth-place finish last year and vaulted 10 feet, 6 inches at the state meet, falling just short of reaching her personal-best of 11 feet she set earlier in the season.
“It feels great and was definitely a big improvement,” said King, the school’s salutatorian for the class of 2019 who will continue her vaulting career at Emory University. “I’m so excited to get there. I’ve met the coaches and the team and they all seem great.”
As Bailey and King celebrated, right there in the middle of it was Winder-Barrow track and field coaching legend Cook Holliday, who continues to work with the program’s vaulters.
“You work hard and you’re hard to beat, just remember that,” Holliday said. “I always tell my kids this and my coaches told me. You’ve got to be sure of yourself before you can win the prize. Don’t get on the back of that runway and have one doubt that you can do it. I’m proud for Barrow County and I’m proud of them. They deserved it because they’ve worked so hard.”
Bailey nearly was eliminated after missing on her first two attempts at 9 feet, 6 inches. But she was successful on her third and final attempt and quickly made her jumps of 10 feet and 10 feet, 6 inches. She clinched the title after making her second attempt at 11 feet and set a new personal record when she cleared 11 feet, 6 inches on her second try.
Bailey took a short break and then cleared 12 feet on her first attempt before calling it a day.
“She got back on her shoulder and got in the right position,” Holliday said of Bailey’s adjustments. “My old saying is that if the pole had a tongue and could talk, it would say, ‘Let me help you.’ She was able to be patient and that last jump, I think she cleared it by a lot. She’s not far off the state record. And with another year coming, I think she’s got a good chance.”
The Winder-Barrow girls finished 12th overall with 21 points, largely with the help of Bailey and King, who combined for 17 points.
Junior Rebekah Freeman accounted for the other four points with a fifth-place finish in the discus (119 feet, 4 inches). Freeman also competed in the shot put, finishing ninth.
“She had a great day and has been really consistent for us,” Sparks said of Freeman. “We’re looking forward to her being back next year.”
Tari Lampkin competed in both the long jump and 100-meter dash for the Lady Bulldoggs. The senior and first-year varsity track and field competitor nearly pulled off a personal-best jump on her third attempt that would have put her in the finals but was called for a foul for narrowly stepping over the line. She ran a personal-best 12.25 seconds in the 100, but finished just outside the top eight that qualified for the finals, finishing 0.05 seconds out.
On the boys’ side, Winder-Barrow’s Djangmah Narhmartey finished sixth in the 800-meter run (1:59.72), capping off a strong senior season that saw him win his second consecutive Region 8-AAAAAA title in the event. He finished a little more than four seconds behind the state champion, Darius Ragland of New Manchester (1:55.06).
“He was realistically in the race until about 200 meters to go when some of those guys ahead of him were able to kick it into an extra gear,” Sparks said. “But he ran a great and really smart race. It didn’t go the way he necessarily wanted in terms of results, but it was a great bounceback from last year when his spike tore up during the race. He had a great season and his progression has been really exciting to watch.”
Sparks said he was optimistic about the program going forward.
Along with Bailey and Freeman, the school will return several athletes that made sectionals and were on the cusp of qualifying for state.
“The leadership from the upperclassmen and making this a ‘big team, little me’ culture has really helped our younger athletes,” Sparks said. “We’re still a young team and we’ve got a really good future ahead of us as long as we keep people healthy and continue to make strides.”