The Deerfield-Windsor girls track & field team poses with its GISA Class AAA state championship trophy, which the Lady Knights earned in come-from-behind fashion Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
ALBANY — Allen Lowe huddled with his kids in a big ball of celebration. The Deerfield-Windsor girls were still hugging and laughing and smiling. Why not? They had just made history and everyone wanted to embrace the moment.
“My nerves are shot,’’ Lowe said. And the kids laughed again.
That’s what it looked like and felt like Saturday when the DWS girls out-gutted and overtook Trinity, 102-97, to become the first girls team to win the GISA Class AAA state track & field title in the school’s long and rich sports history.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels,’’ said Amber Young, who took second in the long jump and the 400, and finished fifth in the 100, and also ran on both relay teams. “It tastes so good. It tastes better than I even thought it would. Oh my gosh, I am so proud of everybody on this team. Deerfield had never won state. We made history. This means the world to us.’’
And while Deerfield was kicking down the door with its first GISA Class AAA state title, the Westwood girls were teaching another history lesson — the one about the dynasty in Camilla, the one that just keeps running away from every GISA Class A team in the state.
Westwood’s girls demolished the field again, scoring a mind-boggling 227 points to win their fifth Class A state title in the past six years. They scored 222 points last year and were even better this weekend at Hugh Mills Stadium, where they own the podium, the track, the field and everything else in Class A.
“They were impressive this weekend,’’ Westwood coach Earl Ford said. “We scored over 200 points again. I don’t know if that will ever happen again.’’
Miller Singleton capped off an incredible career by winning every event she entered and took home the high-point award with 35 points. Singleton, one of four seniors, won her fourth consecutive pole vault title, her second consecutive state title in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and ran on both of Westwood’s winning relay teams.
Then she divulged the secret to Westwood’s success.
“We might not be the most athletic,’’ she said. “But we are really, really gritty. I think it starts with our teachers, who push us so hard. We just have to suck it up and get on with it. And it’s the same in (sports). It’s a total team effort and a testament to coach Ford.’’
Singleton is the epitome of grit and toughness and will be impossible to replace at Westwood, where she starred on the softball field, the back-to-back state finalist basketball teams and in track & field.
And one look at her best friend, Virginia Vereen, tells you everything you need to know about Westwood. Vereen, another multiple star at the school, was not supposed to run in the state meet because of lingering injuries to her legs from basketball, but the state record-holder in the hurdles, showed up and ran one leg of the 4x100 winning relay team.
“She ran in pain,’’ Ford said. “But she just wanted to be a part of it. She couldn’t run in the hurdles, and she wasn’t supposed to run, but Virginia would not not be part of this team. It meant that much to her to be part of it.’’
Ford’s kids pushed all weekend and piled up points from everyone.
Savannah Jones won the 100 and 300 hurdles, and Tatum Brown (second in the 100 hurdles), and Riley Ford (second in the 300 hurdles) were right behind her. Elizabeth Delk was third in the 100 and second in the 200, right behind Singleton, and Hope Bailey was third in the 400. Claire Collins was second in the 3,200. Westwood’s relay teams went 1-2 in both the 4x100 and 4x400.
“When you are perceived to be the champions, whether its perceived or not, you still have to work, and you still have to make it happen,’’ Ford said. “They work. I couldn’t ask for a better year from them or a better weekend.’’
While Westwood ran away from the field, Deerfield walked a tight rope of nerves all day in a see-saw battle with Trinity, which started the day with a 13-point lead. But DWS not only won the title, but won with only one individual state champ — Reed Hancock, who won her third consecutive pole vault title on Friday.
DWS had to look for points under every rock, every nook and cranny at Hugh Mills, but found everything it needed by simply looking into the heart of this team.
“I’m just so happy for these girls, especially for the seniors, Amber (Young), Sabrina (Curry) and Reed (Hancock),’’ Lowe said. “It’s something they will always remember. I couldn’t be any prouder of the girls on this team. They did everything they needed to do, and when the pressure was on, they responded.’’
The pressure was on all day, but Camille Fox ran the race of her life (she beat her personal best time by 40 seconds) to finish second in the 3,200, and MacKenzie Davis finished third, and after Trinity landed in fifth, DWS had closed the gap to 70-67 in the first race of the day.
“That set the tone for the whole day,’’ Lowe said. “That was such a great springboard for us to get a plus-10 in the 3,200. That gave everybody a shot in the arm.’’
DWS’s 4x100 relay team (Tarah Young, Maggie Greene, Samantha Jones and Amber Young) finished third , beating fifth-place Trinity to close the gap to 74-73, and Libby Greene, a freshman, finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles to lift DWS to its first lead, 77-74. The Lady Knights never looked back.
The Young sisters, Amber and Tarah, an eighth grader, finished fifth and sixth in the 100-meter dash to give DWS an 87-74 lead and then Amber, who was seeded fourth, ran the race of her life with a school record in the 400 to finish second behind defending state champ Sarah Horne in the 400 for a 92-84 lead. Libby Greene added a point in the 300-hurdles, and when Tarah Young took fifth in the 200, DWS had a 10 point lead heading to the final event of the meet — the 4x400 relay, where Deerfield had qualified two teams.
Even if Trinity won the race, all DWS had to do was get one team across the finish line. The Lady Knights could have walked around the track, stopped for a Gatorade celebration, and strolled into the finish line and won the team title. That’s what all those points from everywhere meant at the end.
“We kept kicking field goals,’’ said Lowe, who coaches DWS’ football team. “We kept getting points from everyone. Trinity won six of 16 events, but we kept kicking field goals.
Everybody came through. Look at Sabrina Curry who came up big (fourth in the shot put and fifth in the discus) and Virginia Moore (second in the 800 and third in the 1,600). And Camille Fox in the 3,200. And both the Young sisters. Amber ran such a great race in the 400 ... “
Curry and Amber Young both set school records.
“I told myself, ‘just stop thinking,’ and I ran for the team during the entire (400),’’ Amber Young said. “I just pushed myself and forgot about the pain. This was all about the team. We won as a team. We are an unselfish team, and we knew we had to leave it all on the track and we did.
“It was nerve-wracking and it was emotional,’’ she added. “I cried a lot. But we’re the first — the first to win it, and nobody can ever take that away from us. You can set a state record and it can get broken, but no one can ever take this away. We’re the first. We made history.’’
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS: Several other area athletes performed well in the finals on Saturday. Westwood’s boys finished second with 163 points behind Thomas Jefferson (178) as Caleb Morrell (first in 300 hurdles), Ralph Collins (sixth in 110-hurdles and fifth in 300-hurdles), Ridge Collins (fourth in 110-hurdles), Mason Worsham (third in the 100 and sixth in 200), Chason Worsham (fourth in the 400), and J.T. Edore (sixth in the 100 and seventh in the 200) scored for Westwood, which also won both relays with the two Worsham brothers, Edore and Morrell.
DWS’ boys finished third with 54 1/2 points behind first-place Stratford (116 1/2) and Mount de Sales (75). Sherwood Christian (49) was fifth in the boys AAA meet.
DWS got points from Kh’Ron McClain (second in the 100 and fifth in the 200) and Marcos Guthro (seventh in the 3,200) on Saturday, and SCA got points from Rashard Davis (fourth in the 200), Mack Green (eighth in the 100 and eighth in the 200), William Orr (fifth in the 3,200) and Keion Steward (fifth in the 400) and the 4x100 relay team finished second and the 4x400 was fifth.
Southwest Georgia Academy’s boys were fourth (50) in the Class AA meet and Terrell Academy (27) was 10th. Cam Whitaker was second in the 200 and fourth in the 100, and Nate Longo (seventh in 100 and second in long jump) and Perry Bridges (seventh in the 300-hurdles) scored for SGA on Saturday. McKinley Chambless ((sixth in long jump, seventh in high jump, eighth in triple jump), Corey Smith (second in pole vault), and Dillon Driver (sixth in triple jump) led SGA, which also won the 4x400 relay.
TAE was led by Blake Grimsley (first in the high jump), Seth Garland (fourth in discus, fifth in shot put) and Casey Jones (second in discus).
SGA’s girls finished 10th (17 points) and TAE’s girls were 12th (13 1/2 points).
Randolph Southern’s boys (26) finished sixth in Class A.
Matt Bradley (third in the 3,200 and seventh in the 800), Logan Eubanks (fourth in discus), Drew Weatherby (fifth in discus), Owen Deal (sixth in the shot put), and Johnathan Davenport (seventh in the triple jump) led RS.
Randolph Southern’s girls, led by Madison Ragan’s titles in the shot put and discus on Friday, finished third in Class A with 70 1/2 points. Ragan also finished sixth in the 400, and Alana Cook (fourth in the 100-hurdles) and Braylie Blanton (eighth in the 100) scored for RS on Saturday.
Crisp Academy’s girls finished fifth (32) as Grace Atherton won the 3,200 on Saturday.