By Doug Hawley
Although no immediate area high school team claimed a championship Saturday in the Rotary Club of Dalton’s McClurg Invitational track meet at Dalton High, three local performers claimed top individual honors.
Northwest Whitfield’s Shelby Wilson and Dalton’s Susan Meinders shared the girls’ running accolade three ways with Woodland’s Idriah Thompson — all registering 20 points. Northwest’s Jonathan Willman claimed the boys’ running prize by scoring 18 points.
On a day in which temperatures reached the mid-70s with sunny skies and a light breeze, Woodland’s boys and the Villa Rica girls captured the team titles.
Woodland’s boys scored 131 points. Following, in order, were Northwest (96), Dalton (65), Heritage-Catoosa (59), Pickens (49), Villa Rica, (46), North Murray (44), Gordon Central (36), Ringgold (29), Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (29), Gilmer (14), Southeast Whitfield (12), Grady (4) and Coahulla Creek (2).
Villa Rica’s champion girls registered 107 points. Following, in order, were Woodland (95.5), Dalton (69), Northwest (66), Grady (60), Heritage-Catoosa (41), LFO (41), Gordon Central (39), Ringgold (21), Fannin County (16), Pickens (14), Southeast (13), Calhoun (10.5), Gilmer (9), North Murray (8), Murray County (6) and Coahulla Creek (5).
Since trophies went to the top three finishing teams, Dalton received two such pieces of hardware and Northwest one.
Meinders was a double winner for the Lady Catamounts in the 300-meter hurdles (48.30 seconds) and 400 dash (1:00.73). She was a state champion last year in the former event (44.17).
“I didn’t run the 400 last year,” said Meinders, a senior. “Running the 400 before the 300 hurdles is really tough. It will help me in the long run. I should be ready when region rolls around.”
Wilson captured both the 1,600 (5:48) and 800 (2:29).
“I was happy to repeat from last year in both events though I didn’t run as fast as I’d have liked,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t used to the heat (Saturday). All of our meets have been cold. I went out way too fast in the 1600.”
Willman won the long jump (20 feet, 1 inch) and placed second in the triple jump (41-9).
From the immediate area, North Murray’s boys claimed a pair of first places from Isaac Pacheco (3200, 10:14); and Brady Swilling (high jump, 6-2). Southeast’s Jayro Perez (discus, 134-10), and Northwest’s Alex Reynolds (300 hurdles, 44.10) also each won their events.
“I’m pretty beat up,” Pacheco said after finishing second later in the 1,600 to edge Dalton’s Brandon Pineda (4:46.56 to 4:46.84) and finish with 18 individual points. “I was really tired after the 3,200.”
In girls’ activity, McKinley Hopkins of Northwest won the 100 hurdles (16.23) and broke the school record.
“I’m happy for both of our teams getting trophies,” said Scott Thompson, the Dalton boys’ head coach and meet director. “It was a beautiful day. The meet went off without a hitch.”
Ethan Fromm had the best finish for the Dalton boys with a second place in the 400 dash (52.43). Bekah Houston achieved two runner-up spots for the Dalton girls in the 800 (2:36) and 1,600 (5:57). Other Lady Cats second-place berths came from Caroline Norman (pole vault, 8-6) and Kylee Harris (300 hurdles, time unavailable).
Other area second place finishers came from the following: Southeast’s Wendy Perez (discus, 125-2); McKinley (triple jump, 33-2); Northwest’s girls 1,600 relay of Wilson, Maggie Kalafut, Samantha Wooten and Hopkins (4:34.41); North Murray’s Jacob Mays (shot put, 44-0); Northwest’s Dylan Richards (200, 2:11); and the Bruins’ 1,600 relay of Jalen Lockett, Jonathan Willman, Justin Palmer and Reynolds (3:41.47) and 400 relay of Blake Heard, Lockett, Jamon Horne and Willman (44.17).
“Nearly everybody has improved their performances all year,” said Chad Brewer, who serves as the head coach for both Northwest squads. “This was only our third meet due to the crazy weather and other things. I’m particularly pleased with McKinley Hopkins who set a school record in the 100 hurdles. She’s only a sophomore.”
C.J. Wood of Woodland and Drew Bellows from Pickens shared the boys’ top running award. The former won the 100 (10.69) and 200 (22.77), and the latter captured the 1,600 (4:39) and 800 (2:07) runs.
Jackson Wallin of LFO also emerged a double victor by taking the triple jump (43-3) and 400 (51.9).
“I’ve never missed one of these meets,” a proud Ronnie McClurg, who served all day as the starter, said of the meet named in his honor.
With tongue in cheek, he added, “I love it, especially when Scott does all of the work.”
McClurg started the meet back in the 1970s when he was the Dalton boys’ head track coach.