Girls track and field
• Bekah Houston, Dalton: Once she got to high school, Houston quickly became a standard bearer for girls distance runners in this area. The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Houston was also a key contributor for the Lady Cats on the track each spring. This year, she helped the team to a 4x400 relay title at the Region 7-4A meet while also finishing second in both the 800 and 1,600. In the latter two events, she was eighth and third, respectively, at sectionals to qualify for state. Her time of 5:18 in the 1,600 broke a 12-year-old school record. She has signed with Georgia College and State University.
• Susan Meinders, Dalton: Although unable to repeat the state championship she claimed in the 300 hurdles as a junior, Meinders’ senior season was anything but a disappointment. She still won championships in that event at both region and sectionals and took fifth in the event at the Class 4A state meet. She also took fourth in the 100 at region and ran the anchor leg for the victorious 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams at the meet. She has signed a scholarship with the University of Northern Colorado. She was one of two All-Area Spring Team Girls Athletes of the Year last spring.
• Caroline Norman, Dalton: Another key senior performer for the Lady Cats, Norman took second place in pole vault at the Region 7-4A meet to help the host Lady Cats claim the team championship. She took second in the event at sectionals and was fourth at state, joining teammate Massey Swanson as the first from their program to win state medals in pole vault.
• Shea Pendley, Murray County: One of just two state qualifiers this season for the Lady Indians — Caitlyn Wilson (discus) was the other — Pendley, a shot putter, kept improving even toward the end of the season. After finishing eighth at the region meet, just earning a place at sectionals, she claimed sixth the following week to ensure her season would include a trip to Albany for the Class 2A state meet. The Lady Indians knew they could count on her meet in and meet out, however — she was the team’s leading scorer this season.
• Wendy Perez, Southeast: As she enters her senior season, Perez holds status as one of the top all-around athletes at her school. After solid seasons in both volleyball and basketball, she moved to the shot put circle in the spring and was equally talented. She lost just once during the regular season and also enjoyed postseason success, taking second at region and eighth at sectionals to secure a trip to state. She didn’t place in Albany but could be a contender to do so next season.
• Megan Pittman, North Murray: Despite only being a sophomore, Pittman has already become a key contributor for the Lady Mountaineers in basketball, softball and track and field. In the latter, she has been a steady force in discus and shot put. This season, she took third in discus and fourth in shot put at the Region 5-3A meet to set up a fifth-place finish in discus and an 11th-place finish in shot put at sectionals. At state, she took fifth in discus. The Lady Mountaineers are undoubtedly glad she’ll be around for more two years.
• A.T. Smith, Coahulla Creek: For the second straight year, Smith led the way for her team. At the Region 5-3A meet, the sophomore speedster won titles in both the 100 and long jump and took second place in the triple jump while helping the 4x100 relay team to a fourth-place finish. She moved on from sectionals in both the 100 and long jump, finishing eighth in the latter event to become the second-year Lady Colts’ first state medalist.
• Massey Swanson, Dalton: Swanson enjoyed an outstanding senior season, helping the Lady Cats win a region title for the first time in coach Pam Brackett’s 11 years leading the program. At region, she scored points in the 100, helped the 4x100 relay team to a first-place finish and won the pole vault by beating out a tough competitor — her teammate, Norman — by six inches. She was third to Norman’s second at sectionals, but took third at state, again one place ahead of her teammate. She also tied Norman’s 9-foot record in pole vault this season.