Each local high school competing in the Region 7-4A boys and girls track and field meets at Dalton High has hopeful visions for at least a few of its athletes.
The two-day event starts today and is scheduled to finish Friday. Area programs Dalton, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield will be joined by Cass, Cedartown, Gilmer, Heritage-Catoosa, LaFayette, Pickens, Ridgeland and River Ridge. Action begins each day at 1 p.m., and today will include finals for some events and preliminaries for others.
At stake for every athlete in the field is his or her postseason fate. Each event’s top four finishers advance to next weekend’s Class 4A West Sectional in Carrollton, but those outside that group are done for the year.
On today’s agenda are the finals in the girls pole vault, discus and long jump, plus boys high jump, shot put and triple jump. Athletes also will compete in the preliminaries for all track events.
Friday will include all track finals plus finals in the girls high jump, shot put and triple jump, plus the boys pole vault, discus and long jump.
Dalton boys coach Scott Thompson said there is a possibility of inclement weather on Friday, and Saturday is set as the makeup day. Rescheduling or scrapping meets has been a major part of this season for area schools, and it was on the mind of local coaches as their teams made last-minute preparations for the postseason.
“We had four meets canceled,” Southeast coach Michael Durham said. “It does affect you. I’ve been running through high school and at (the University of) Georgia. Then I’ve been coaching. This is one of the worst springs we’ve had. ... Having four meets canceled, I’ve never had to do that. But it’s the same for everyone. It might not have been as bad south of us, but it has still been bad.”
Thompson listed the Cat-amounts’ Kelvis Rhodes (high jump), Angel Rodriguez and Brandon Pineda (800-meter run), Ethan Fromm (400) and Trey Hurt (3,200) as prime contenders to qualify for the next level. He also said Seth Gabriel and Jordon McKinney both could reach the top four in the 300 hurdles.
“Hurdles is going to be strong for us,” he said. “We may not win it but should score points.”
Susan Meinders, who the Class 3A state title in the 100 hurdles last season, leads the way for the Lady Cats. In addition to that event, she’ll compete in the 100 dash, long jump and both relays. Dalton girls coach Pam Brackett hopes Meinders’ fellow seniors Caroline Norman (pole vault, 100, 4x400 relay), Massie Swanson (pole vault, 4x100 relay) and Bekah Hou-ston (1,600, 800) also have success.
“We’re depending on our seniors this year,” Brackett said.
Northwest coach Chad Brewer is counting on a senior-laden group to help the Bruins and Lady Bruins. Shelby Wilson (800, 1,600), Maggie Kalafut (high jump) and Natalie Williams (3,200, 1,600) will need to perform well if the Lady Bruins want to have a good day, he said.
For the boys, he mentioned Northwest’s Brody Cook and Parker Cook (3,200, 1,600), Jalen Lockett (400, 200), Jonathan Willman (100, long jump, triple jump), Blake Heard (high jump) and Dylan Groves (discus) as strong athletes. Lockett, Will-man and Heard will also compete in both relays.
“All those seniors, we will really count on them and they will control how many points we score. Period,” Brewer said. “They’ll control how many make it to the finals.
“I like our chances to finish in the top half of this meet if those guys and girls all have great days.”
For Southeast, Durham mentioned Jayro Perez (discus), Cody Ensley (shot put, discus), Kevin Rottes (long jump), Aaron Thomas (1,600, 800) as those who could do well for the Raiders. For the Lady Raiders, Wendy Perez (discus), Kayleen Mullins (triple jump, high jump), Anissa Sosebee (long jump) and Hannah Ridley (long jump) are leading contenders. The 4x400 relay team of Mullins, Isabel Salinas, Kara Felts and Britany Painter also are expected to do well.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have shots,” Durham said.