Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

ALBANY -- The smile is familiar and so is that toughness, that grit and desire -- the kind that pushes and drives.

Amber Young has them all, just like her brother Andre, who was a superstar basketball player at Deerfield-Windsor and now is a star at Clemson.

Amber has a sense of humor, too.

"I think it was in the water I was drinking,'' she said, flashing a big smile after dominating the GISA Region 3-AAA track & field meet at Hugh Mills on Wednesday. "Yeah, that was it. It was the water."

Yeah, the water. Must have been the water that propelled Young, a junior, to win the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump titles. And it had to be the water that sent her sailing home to the finish line as she anchored both the 4x100 relay title team and the 4x400 winning relay team.

"I worked real hard starting last summer,'' she said. "I just wanted to put last year behind me. I wanted to do my best in this meet and next week at state.''

Young was the MVP of the girls meet, scoring 28 points to help DWS crush the field to win its eighth title in a row with 177 points. Tiftarea was second with 71 points. Westfield was third at 36, and Southland finished fourth with 35 points. Sherwood Christian Academy finished fifth with nine points.

And while Young and the girls were literally running away with the title, Mac Lanier was putting on a gutsy performance to lead the DWS boys their 10th title in a row.

DWS has owned this region for the last decade, and a rash of injuries and a youth movement didn't slow down the Knights, who scored 134 points to beat Sherwood Christian, which was second with 73 points. Southland was third (66), followed by Tiftarea (40) and Westfield.

"It's a hard-working group,'' said DWS boys coach Craig Rhodes. "We've had a lot of injuries this year to overcome, and we've been moving people around all year. I don't think we've had the same relay team twice all year. We lost Davis Moore two weeks ago to a hamstring. He has been a state qualifier for the last two years, and would have run the 400 and run on both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.''

But here they are, 10 titles in a row, and headed to the three-day state meet, which begins Thursday at Hugh Mills.

Lanier is kind of a symbol for DWS' track season. He has been battling a back injury for three weeks, and has had to take therapy before and after practice every day. He had to go through some therapy Wednesday just before entering the 110-meter hurdles.

Lanier won the race.

He finished second in the pole vault (11-0) and was second in the long jump (19-1 1/2), and was named the MVP of the boys meet, scoring 20 points to lead DWS.

"He landed wrong in the long jump three weeks ago,'' Rhodes said. "But he has battled through therapy every day before and after practice, and he really came through today like a star.''

Track & field may be based on individual results, but Lanier said he hung in there and endured the therapy for one reason.

"I wanted to do it for my team,'' he said. "We've all been working hard, and I just wanted to do the best I could to help us win. I'm happy, very happy we won the region. It's worth it. Just winning makes it worth it.''

The DWS girls had plenty of stars, including Reed Hancock, who owns the GISA state record in the pole vault at 12-feet, six inches. Hancock, who competed for the USA junior team in Singapore last summer, had an easy day winning the region title with a vault of 11-feet.

"I've been going over 13 in practice,'' she said. "I'm using a bigger pole now and hopefully I can break my own state record next week and go 13 feet. But I didn't use the big pole today. There were only two pole vaulters, so I just had to clear the (minimum) height to qualify for state. I was doing a lot of running today, so I was tired.''

The other pole vaulter was DWS' Bailey Strom, who was second at 9-feet. Hancock was second in the long jump behind Young and ran on the 4x100 relay team along with Candace Cosby, Samantha Jones and Young that won the title in 53.3.

Jones was second in the 200 and third in the 100. Cosby was second in the 400 and also ran on the wining 4x400 relay team along with Mary Catherine Crisp, Catrina Mathis and Young. Crisp won the 400 title.

Madison Sauls won the 1,600 (6:10) and the 3,200 meter runs (13:15) while Sabrina Curry won the shot put (30-5) and the discus (98-8 1/2). Micaela Cuneo won the 800 (2.44) and was second in the 1,600. Catherine Leggette won the triple jump (33-2). DWS' Karlee Roberts was second in the 100-hurdles and Courtney Kelson was second in the 800 as the Lady Knights scored from everywhere.

The Knights got another big day from Taylor Withers, The Herald's three-time cross Country Player of the Year. Withers won the 800 (2:18.2) and the 400 (54.0) and ran the third leg for DWS's winning 4x400 relay team (3:42), which was made up of Casey Rhodes, John Germany and Chandler Lane. Rhodes was second in the 400.

DWS 4x100 team of Lane, Tyrone Culbreth, Quentin Heard and James Tyson also won (45.5). Culbreth and Heard finished third and fourth in the 200 behind Southland's Kevin Green, who won the 100 (11.10) and 200 (22.4), and Sherwood's M.J. Green, who finished second in the 100 and 200. Culbreth was third in the high jump.

DWS's Matt Miller won the discus (133-5 1/4) and Nick Michas was second. SCA's Darren Aikens won the shot put (42-11) and was third in the discus. SCA's William Orr won the 3,200 meter run (10:49).

DWS's Gaughf Ivey was third in the pole vault. SCA's Chandler Tab was second in the high jump. Southland's Chance Isreal won the long jump (20 3/4).

But the day belonged to Deerfield.

"I thought we had a great day,'' said DWS girls coach Allen Lowe. "We had a lot of personal bests today and (Amber Young) has had a great year and was real solid today. She could have a great state meet. She has really worked hard this year.''

It must have been in the water ...

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SGA BOYS WIN 3-AA CROWN; TAE BOYS, GIRLS FINISH SECOND:

The SGA boys track & field team captured the Region 3-AA title Wednesday at Valwood, beating second-place Terrell Academy by 32 points. SGA scored 160, while TAE finished with 128, followed by Brookwood (121), CCA, Valwood and Fullington.

Those who won events for SGA included: Cody Buckhalter (pole vault, 10 feet); Taylor Tabb (long jump, 19'1/4, triple jump, 34'8); the 4x100 team (Kameron Whitaker, Corey Smith, Dillon Driver and Tabb with a time of 47.06); Parker Adams (110 hurdles, 17.89 and 300 hurdles, 45.58); Trey King (400 meters, 57.45); Maddox Bridgers (800, 2:28); Whitaker (200 meters, 24.61); 4x400 team (Driver, Smith, Tabb and Teel Massey, 3:55).

Second-year coach Beau Johnson said he couldn't be prouder of the effort, and was excited about leading the Warriors into state.

"I'm very proud. The kids worked really hard and we're a young team with only three seniors," said Johnson, whose girls team did not win an event, but saw Summer Driver finished second in the 110 hurdles. "We qualified kids for state in 12 out of the 16 events and I think if we can hang around and score some points, we can make some noise at state."

Terrell Academy's boys and girls teams both finished second in the Region 3-AA meet.

TAE's boys were led by Casey Jones, who won the shot put and the discus, Blake Grimsley, who won the high jump and Todd Beaver, who won the 100-meter title.

TAE's girls were led by the 4x100 relay team of Lauren Barfield, Mura Milliron, Carley Law and Brittney Spillman, who won the title.

Milliron also won the long jump and the 100-meter dash. Lauren Barfield won the triple jump, and Alex Barfield won the high jump.