ALBANY -- Rockdale County freshman Candace Hill brought the sizzle. But once again, Westlake went home with the steak.
The Lions used their superior depth, plus tons of guts and guile to win their second consecutive Class AAAAAA title at the 46th Georgia High School Association Girls State Track and Field Championships.
Westlake has won three state titles since 2009, and co-head coach Robert Wilson said this one might be the sweetest. Unlike last year, when the Lions blew away the rest of the field by 30 points, Westlake was not in the top 10 going into Saturday’s running finals after a couple of disappointing finishes in the field competitions -- although junior Anriel Howard won the triple jump -- and a disqualification of the team’s top 1,600-meter relay team in Friday’s preliminary heat for a runner taking too many steps off the track while running in the inside lane.
“We had a team meeting [Friday night], and we told them that sometimes in life you are going to face adversity, but you have to overcome it,” Wilson said. “We made some adjustments and the girls came out fighting and clawing like they always do.”
Co-head coach Jason Cage agreed.
“We’ve got some fighters in this program,” said Cage. “Everybody came out [on Saturday] and stepped it up.”
First, Westlake’s 400-meter relay teams placed second and fifth, respectively, for a total of 12 points. Then senior Ariel Terrell, a Tennessee signee, and sophomore Jenee Nichols finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 400 meters, followed by a second-place finish in the 100 meters by senior Kevia Gonzales. The Lions would go on to score in every running event on Saturday and finish with 61 points, nine points better than second place McEachern (52).
“[After Friday’s disqualification] I was devastated. I wanted to cry,” said senior Aubree Collins, who has signed with East Tennessee State. “But after I saw the way we ran the [400-meter] relay, I knew we would be alright.”
“I knew it as soon as we got to the track [Saturday morning],” Terrell said. “We took the disappointment and used it as motivation. We had it in our minds that we had to bring it, and we did.”
While Westlake took home the team title, the star of the meet was Hill. The heralded ninth grader set a Class AAAAAA record in the 100 meters, winning in 11.44 seconds (Chalonda Goodman, Newnan, 2008, 11.45), and returned to set the all-classification record in the 200 meters with a time of 23.21 (Brittany Long, Therrell, 2007, 23.30), the nation’s fastest time by a high school girl this season.
In the other classifications:
AAAAA: Miller Grove rode a strong performance by senior Tiffany Flynn to win the team title by one point over Pope, 60-59. Flynn set the AAAAA state record in the triple jump with a leap of 41-feet, 11-inches, and won the long jump (18-8 ¾) and the 100-meter hurdles (13.96). The Wolverines’ 1,600-meter relay team clinched the championship with a fifth-place finish to provide the one-point margin of victory.
AAAA: Marist defended its 2013 team championship in dominating fashion, easily outdistancing second place Monroe-Albany, 96-67. Caitie Faust won the 800 meters (2:15.89), Morgan Ilse and Kendall Nelson finished first and second, respectively, in the 1,600 meters and the 3,200 meters, Bailey Weiland won the high jump and Anne Marie Simoneaux won the pole vault.
AAA: Woodward Academy secured the team title in the last event, the 1,600-meter relay, with a sixth-place finish to maintain a slim lead over second-place St. Pius, 61-56. Summer Thompson led the way by winning the long jump (18-1 ½).
AA: Lovett cruised to an easy team title, 92-48, over second-place Thomasville as Nicole Teague won the triple jump (37- ½).
A Private: Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy won its first track and field team title as freshman T’Aja Cameron paced the Chargers by winning the 100 (12.03) and 200 meters (24.76), and running legs on the teams title-winning 400-meter and 1,600-meter relay teams.
A Public: Gordon Lee knocked off defending champion Marion County, 81-72, by dominating in the field as Anna Pettigrew won the high jump (5-3) and the pole vault (9-feet), Shay Wooten (36-11) and Katelyn Lee (36-04) finished first and second in the shot put, while Katelyn Lee (117-11) and Madelyn Lee (105-10) finished first and second in the discus.