By Doug Hawley
During her 11 years as coach of Dalton High School’s girls track and field program, Pam Brackett’s team had never won the region championship.
That drought is over.
Brackett’s Lady Catamounts dominated the 11-school Region 7-4A meet on their home track Friday as the two-day event wrapped up after rain delayed its start on the second day.
Meanwhile, Northwest Whitfield coach Chad Brewer needed only his one season with the Tunnel Hill high school to win the boys’ crown. He had been at Southeast Whitfield previously; next school year he takes over as the football coach at Murray County.
Brackett deflected credit for the Lady Cats’ performance.
“We just had such quality seniors this year,” Brackett said. “They made a big difference. However, I have to give credit to all of our coaches who help coach both teams.”
Susan Meinders, one of the Lady Cats’ four seniors, provided the spark on the final day. She won the 300-meter hurdles in 47.10 seconds — taking the title in an event she also won last year at state — anchored two winning relay teams — the 4x100 (51.98) and 4x400 (4:24.45) — and took fourth in the 100. The top four finishers in each event, boys and girls, advance to next Saturday’s Class 4A B Sectional at Carrollton High School.
“This is what I usually do in every meet,” Meinders said. “We had lots of freshmen who stepped up. We’re a close team overall.”
Meinders has signed a scholarship with Northern Colorado.
“Susan has been instrumental in all four years of her track,” Brackett said. “She’s held everything together.”
Bekah Houston, Caroline Norman and Massey Swanson are the team’s other seniors. Norman and Houston were part of the 4x400 relay victory, along with Kylee Harris. Swanson was also part of the 4x100 relay, with Mary Morrow and Adrianna Bryant completing the lineup.
Houston took second place in the 800 (2:28.47). She finished behind Northwest’s Shelby Wilson (2:23.04) who won the 1,600 Thursday.
Bryant took second and Morrow third for Dalton in the 200 (both at 27.57).
Dalton’s girls accumulated 121.3 points. Following were River Ridge (89), Northwest (79), Cedartown (72), Heritage-Catoosa (61), Cass (54), Pickens County (37), LaFayette (32), Southeast Whitfield (31), Ridgeland (24) and Gilmer County (19).
In the boys meet, Northwest, which led by eight points heading into the final event, the 4x400 relay, finished with 102 points. Pursuers were Cass (86), Heritage (77), Pickens (73), Dalton (69), River Ridge (63), Cedartown (40), Ridgeland (38), Southeast (27), Gilmer (26) and LaFayette (21).
“We had a lot of seniors who performed like seniors,” Brewer lauded of his champion Bruins. “They all are close. For example, Brody Cook, who just finished running a great 3,200, immediately wanted to know if his points were enough for us to win.”
Said Northwest senior Jonathan Willman, a prime point producer all season, “It’s the greatest feeling in my life. I chose not to play basketball this year. I wanted to make a commitment to this track team to win a region championship.”
Willman anchored the victorious 4x400 relay unit (3:34.92). He was joined by Jalen Lockett, Justin Palmer and Alex Reynolds.
He and Lockett also were part of the winning 4x100 relay (43.74). Rounding out the quartet were Blake Heard and Jamon Horn.
Lockett was also second in the 400 (51.31) and fourth in the 200 (23.06). Twin brothers Brody Cook (10:14.6) and Parker Cook (10:16.19) advanced with second and third places in the 3,200 for the Bruins.
Northwest received third-place performances from Dylan Richards in the 800 (2:09.03) Dylan Groves in the discus (128-10) and Willman in the 100 (11.20). Willman was also fourth in the triple jump (42-0).
Southeast’s Jayro Perez won the discus with a throw of 130-0, four feet shorter than his preliminary throw on Friday.
“I just need to work on my spin this week for the sectional meet,” Perez said. “Hopefully, I can throw 140 feet. Having won region last year, I was confident coming into the meet.”
Dalton received a second place from Jordon McKinney in the 300 hurdles (42.43). Ethan Fromm placed third in the 400 dash (52.39).
The Cats also qualified for the 4x400 relay (3:45.55) with a fourth-place finish by Austin Mills, McKinney, Angel Rodriguez and Fromm.
Northwest’s girls had the 100 hurdles champion in McKinley Hopkins (16.09). She was second in the 300 hurdles (50.40).
Southeast’s girls received a second-place finish from Wendy Perez in the shot put (31-9). Anissa Sosebee was fourth in the 100 hurdles (17.39).
Northwest’s girls finished second in the 4x400 relay (4:29.13), with the quartet consisting of Maggie Kalafat, Shataria Johnson, McKinley Hopkins and Wilson. The Lady Bruins also were fourth in the 400 relay (53.79), with that group Taylor Sistrunk, Kalafat, Hopkins and Johnson.
Kalafat also took fourth in the 400 dash (1:05.93).