ALBANY - The Year of the Cat continues. After winning state titles in football, girls tennis and having runner-up finishes in girls basketball and boys tennis, the Westwood Wildcats swept the GISA Class A boys and girls track and field state championships Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
The Lady Wildcats scored 222 points, the most in head coach Earl Ford's 16-year tenure, and ran away from second-place Randolph Southern (121) by winning six relay and individual state titles in the track events. The boys, who also captured three relay and individual track titles on the final day, needed a second and third-place finish in the 1600-meter relay, the last race of the day, to hold off Thomas Jefferson by six points (192-186).
Westwood track and field has now won state titles in both the boys and girls divisions four out of the last five years. Their streak of three in a row ended last year but begins anew after this year's sweep.
"The thing we want to do is we want to be the best," Ford said after winning his 10th total state title as head coach Saturday. "They're perfectionists. I had some kids who were disappointed with their times or the way they competed, even some of those won won."
With no seniors on the girls team, the juniors ruled the day for Westwood. Miller Singleton won high scoring individual in Class A with state titles in the pole vault, 200 meter and 100-meter sprints and the 4x100-meter relay.
"It's a great feeling," Singleton said. "We want to leave our legacy. We want to be that class that does it all."
Junior Virginia Vereen, who was the second highest scoring individual in Class A, won four state titles Saturday in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles and as part of the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays.
"If feels good because we have no seniors and we're like the leaders of the team," said Vereen, who holds the state-record time (49.14) in the 300-meter hurdles but missed it by half a second this year. "Last year I had somebody pushing me (in the 300-meter hurdles) but this year I didn't have anybody pushing me to go faster. I was a little disappointed in that."
Five of the top six high-scoring individuals in girls Class A came from Westwood, including Hope Bailey, Liz Delk and Ivy Foister. Singleton wasn't on the 4x400-meter relay championship team because Ford split her and Vereen up to balance out the speed on both teams in the race.
"Coach Ford is a very strategic man," Singleton said. "He knows what he's doing."
Bailey, Foister, Vereen and Savannah Jones were on the 4x400 title team and Bailey, Singleton, Vereen and Delk won the 4x100 title.
Jones was runner-up to Vereen in both the 100 and 300-meter hurdles. Delk placed second to Singleton in the 200-meter dash.
"I said to them after this meet, my expectation of them is that they're going to be better next year," Ford said of his girls team. "They need to go into this coming year with that in mind."
The boys, meanwhile, needed everything they could get from Jake Edore, Mason Worsham and Jake Kotter down the stretch. Edore was the third highest scoring individual and won state titles in the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and the 4x100-meter relay.
"We knew (Thomas Jefferson would close the gap), but we also knew we had fast teams," Edore said. "We just had to put our hearts on the line."
Of the nine relay and individual titles won Saturday, Westwood finished 1-2 in four races. Kotter and Worsham had a photo finish as the final legs in the 4x100 racing against each other with Kotter winning by a hair.
The Wildcats win wasn't without controversy, though. Officials met for more than 30 minutes after the final race to discuss a violation of throwing the baton on the track after the 1600-meter race that would have disqualified one of Westwood's teams and given Thomas Jefferson a one point win in the team standings.
Officials, however, determined that an inspector, who is the only track official that can call the violation, did not see the baton being thrown and therefore the violation was nullified.
The controversy after the race left somewhat of a question for Ford, although he felt his boys deserved the title.
"In my heart I know he (Kotter) did not throw the baton," Ford said. "I did not see the infraction. It does leave a little bit of a cloud for us and for them, (but) I feel like we had the best team and I feel like we earned (the title) over the course of three days."
In the end, the state title trophies will rest in Camilla and were well deserved.
"We've got good kids who work hard and spread themselves thin," Ford said.
Class A: Despite the domination by Westwood, Randolph Southern ran well Saturday finishing with the runner-up trophy in the girls division and third in the boys. Daylon Blanton was the fifth highest scoring individual in the Class A boys field. Randolph-Southern finished second in the 4x100 girls run and second in the 1600-meter girls relay. Alana McCook was third in the 100-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles and in the 300-meter hurdles. Macy Ford placed third in the 200-meter dash.
Class AA: Southwest Georgia Academy placed third in the 4x100-meter boys relay and second in the 1600-meter boys relay. Dillon Driver, Corey Smith, Will Warren and Taylor Tabb ran for the Warriors.
Class AAA: Deerfield-Windsor's boys team finished fifth overall in the team standings. Mac Lanier finished runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles. Southland Academy's Kevin Greene placed second in the 200-meter dash final.