ALBANY -- For Sherwood Christian Academy's Katie Meagher it's not a case of waiting until next year. It's a matter of waiting until Saturday.
That's how Meagher felt after finishing second in Class AA girls 1,600 meter run in the GISA boys and girls state track and field meet on Thursday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
"I feel fine,'' said Meagher, a junior. "I feel like I ran my race. I've got the 800 and then I have the 3,200 on Saturday. That's my race, the 3,200.''
Meagher finished second for the second year in a row in the 1,600, losing once again to Kelcie Jacobs, who won in 5:38.93. Meagher came in at 5:54.71. Jacobs, meanwhile, graduates this year, but Meagher will be back to try again next season.
But what Meagher is really looking forward to is the 3,200 on Saturday. She's the defending state champ. Her best time is 12:41, and she would like to pull off the double, winning the race and setting a new personal best. She looked strong Thursday and led Jacobs until late about the 800 meter mark. But after settling into second, Meagher blew away the rest of the field.
"I feel proud of the race I ran,'' Meagher said.
The GISA track and field meet is a three-day event, and the only final held on Thursday was the 1,600, which turned out to be tough race for defending AAA state champ Kelly Conway, who is ending a long and brilliant career at Deerfield Windsor, where she has already won nine state titles.
"I just had a bad day,'' said Conway, who finished seventh. "My legs went a little dead in the third lap. But I'm fine. I have other races (the 400 and 800). I have to look past this and look forward to the races I have coming up.''
Conway came back and qualified in the 400 finals that will be held Saturday. She runs in the 800 meters today.
Thursday was a day for teams to qualify runners in the sprints, and the Deerfield Windsor boys team did everything it could to give itself a chance to defend its AAA team title.
"We got in everybody I thought we would get in,'' DWS boys coach Craig Rhodes said. "I feel pretty good about our day.''
Tony Zenon, who will be headed for Georgia Tech's backfield next season after signing a football scholarship earlier this year, set the pace by running the fastest qualifying times in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes, and anchoring DWS' 4x100 relay team, which ran the fastest qualifying time of the day.
Zenon won't be alone in the finals on Saturday. Justin Webb qualified in the 200, and Kh'ron McClain, a freshman, was the surprise of the day for DWS.
"Kh'ron was seeded about 11th or 12 in the 100, and he qualified,'' Rhodes said. "That was the only surprise of the day.''
Everything else went as expected for DWS. Webb had the fastest qualifying time in the 110 hurdles and the second-best tie in the 300 hurdles, and Davis Moore had no trouble qualifying in the 400.
Webb, Moore, McClain and Zenon make up the 4x100 relay team that set the standard Thursday.
Rhodes just hopes his younger kids can put up some points today when all of the finals of the field events will be held.
DWS has region champs in the high jump (Reggie Brown), the pole vault (Gaughf Ivey), the shot put (Quinton Adkins) and triple jump (Anthony Melvin). Zenon is the defending state champ in the long jump.
Westwood's boys and girls teams have each won the last three Class A state titles and both teams were off to good starts Thursday.
"No surprises,'' Westwood coach Earl Ford said. "We did about what we thought we would do. We got most of them in.''
Ford had more to say about one girl who didn't place than some of his top runners, but Claire Collins' gutsy performance in the 1,600 tells you everything you need to know about Ford's program at Westwood, and why his kids seem to rise to the occasion every year.
Collins has a hip injury and could have easily sat out the meet, but she insisted on running and almost scored for Westwood, finishing ninth.
"You have to have great respect for a kid who gives it everything like she did,'' Ford said. "She didn't have to run and she did. She tells me she is going to run in the 3,200 on Saturday.''
Westwood's Riley Ford finished sixth in the 1,600 and Randolph Southern's Lexie Fulgham finished fifth.
Westwood has always flourished in the field events, and Ford is counting on a big day today when the points will start to add up toward Saturday's final, which will feature all running events.
Westwood's girls are in good shape after the prelims. Both of the team's 4x100 relay teams qualified for the finals, and Virginia Vereen set the pace in 100 and 300 hurdles while Miller Singleton qualified for the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Both of Westwood's boys 4x100 relay teams qualified, and Jake Edore and Daniel Hays both qualified in the 110 hurdles. Edore also made it in the 300 hurdles. Tayler Boone qualified in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and Riley Anderson and Ethan Lambert both qualified in the 400. Randolph Southern's Kevin Melton had a big day in the boys Class A meet, running the best times in the 110 and 300 hurdles.
"We feel comfortable after (Thursday),'' Ford said of his two teams. "There's a lot of track meet left. We've got to have a good day (today) in the field events to set ourselves up to be in the hunt on Saturday. Our focus is to get them to Saturday -- and then compete.''