Westwood boys, girls can't defend state titles

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- How do you score 152 1/2 points and not win a state track & field title?

That's what the Westwood Lady Wildcats want to know.

No one in Southwest Georgia won a team title, but Westwood's boys and girls teams were in the hunt until late in the day. Both teams had won three consecutive state titles.

The girls scored 152 1/2 points but it wasn't enough as they finished second to Briarwood (177 1/2).

As for the boys? They put up 95 -- which is good enough to win a state track title -- but it wasn't enough Saturday.

The boys were third, just behind first-place Covenant (115) and Bethesda (97).

"Man alive -- it was a tough day,'' Westwood coach Earl Ford said. "The girls ran into a very, very good Briarwood team that knew what to do and got after it. We just didn't have enough to stay with them. But they never gave up. They competed to the very end."

Ford then added: "The boys were the same way, they gave it everything. Every time I thought we were ready to make a move on (Covenant and Bethesda) we just couldn't quite do it. But they never quit.''

Westwood's day was highlighted by Virginia Vereen, who set a state record in the girls 300-meter hurdles with the best race of her life, winning in 49.14.

"When the race was over and they told me my time (was a state record), I thought they were lying,'' Vereen said. "I said: 'Are you serious?' I didn't think I ran that (well) because the wind was in my face and I thought that would slow me down.''

Then she didn't think she would finish.

"When I got to about the 100 (meter mark) I was out of energy. I was just dying,'' she said. "But the crowd started yelling and got me going, and then I heard my mom's voice. She is the loudest person in the stands.''

Vereen, a sophomore, also finished third in the 100 hurdles, and ran on both relay teams, which both finished second. Gillian Ford, Hope Bailey and Miller Singleton ran on the 4x100, and Ford, Bailey and Vereen were joined by Ivy Foister on the 4x400.

Singleton, who won the pole vault title Friday, was second in the 100 and fifth in the 200, and Bailey finished third in the 400 while Foister was eighth. Savannah Jones was fifth in the 100 hurdles and Claire Collins, who was running with an injured hip, was third in the 3,200 while Riley Ford finished fourth.

Westwood's boys were led by Jake Edore, who was third in the 110 hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles, and Tayler Boone, who was fifth in the 100 and eighth in the 200. Daniel Hays was seventh in both hurdle events. Mason Jones won the long jump and triple jump events Friday to lead Westwood in titles.

"We'll be back next year,'' Earl Ford said. "And next year is not that far away. I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I'd bet on Westwood (coming back).''

Southwest Georgia runners had some brilliant moments in the Class A meet, and few were brighter than Kevin Melton, who led Randolph Southern's boys to a fourth-place finish (74 points). Melton won the 110 and 300 hurdles, and finishes his career with four individual state titles. He won the 300 and the high jump as a junior.

"I wanted to win three this year,'' said Melton, who was third in the high jump on Friday. "I was disappointed I didn't win the high jump, so I guess I took it out on the hurdles. It's pretty great to win them both. I owed it to myself (to win the hurdles) and I owed it to my team.''

He won the 110's in 17.07 and won the 300 hurdles in 43.16, and reminded The Herald that he had all but guaranteed he would win both Friday.

"I did say I would win them,'' smiled Melton, who also anchored both of Randolph Southern's relay teams that finished second.

Randolph Southern also got points from Clay Ferguson (sixth in the 3,200), Matt Bradley (seventh in the 3,200) and Dillon Thorpe (fourth in the 100 and seventh in the 200).

Randolph Southern's Lexie Fulgham (fifth in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the 100 hurdles), Morgan Crawford (fourth in the 3,200) and Kaitlyn McDaniel (eighth in the 3,200) led the girls.

Terrell Academy's Cole Byrd, the leading running back for TAE's state football champs this past season, ran away in the 100-meter dash.

"I was second last year,'' said Byrd, who won in 11.48. "I got it in my mind early that I was going to improve on last year.

Byrd then added with a laugh: "I got a good night's sleep and had a good breakfast at McDonald's. I came out of the blocks real good. That's what made the race. It felt so good to win. I knew I could do it. It feels great, but not as good as winning a football title.''

Terrell Academy's Levi Griffin (seventh in the 400) scored for the boys and Emily Carlson (third in the 100 and fourth in the 200) led the TAE girls.