In the past that might have been a relatively big deal to go from a region meet to a state-level competition, but last weekend’s inaugural sectionals throughout the state may have been good enough preparation for the season’s largest and most important meet.
Woodland coach David Holloway believes that first-time participants Briana Brown (high jump) and Samantha Patterson (pole vault) will fare fine.
“I think she’s gonna be OK,” Holloway said when asked of Brown, who qualified for state with a jump of 5 feet, 4 inches at the Class AAAA West Sectional in Fayetteville. “I think that oftentimes when someone makes it to state it can be overwhelming … Her having a step up in competition shouldn’t be too big of a surprise for her. She handled it pretty well at sectionals. I figure it would be a similar [experience] at state.
“She got third her freshmen year [at region], and this year she bumped that up a little bit as far as making it [to state],” he continued. “At sectionals, she had one really good attempt at 5-6, so we’re hoping she can hit that marker at state this Friday.”
Such a jump would could allow Brown to finish as high as second based on seeds for the 16 participants. Brown is seeded third behind Lambert’s Savannah Smith (5-6) and Kell’s Kendell Williams (5-10).
Patterson doesn’t enter her first state meet seeded nearly as high as her teammate — she is ninth — but does sport a season-high and school-record jump of 10, meaning the sophomore could vault several places higher than her seed might suggest.
“She cleared 10 feet at [the] Bartow County [Championships], and she’s been doing 9-6 pretty consistently,” Holloway said of Patterson, who placed sixth at sectionals.
Like Patterson and Brown, Cass’ Janee Callahan (shot put) and Amber Bowen (triple jump) are slated to debut at the Class AAAA state meet. Callahan, a sophomore, and Bowen, a junior, both placed eighth in their respective events. Bowen had her best jumps of the season, including a 34-9 in the finals, while Callahan rebounded from a rocky start with a finals throw of 37 1/2.
Lady Colonels coach D.L. Koontz is pulling for another season-best effort from Bowen and fully expects Callahan to resemble her effort throughout much of the season.
“I’m just looking forward to [Bowen] continuing to improve, whether it’s by half an inch or whatever,” Koontz said. “[I want to] make sure she’s ready to be 100 percent [and] do the best she can.”
As for Callahan, the Cass coach spoke with the state-qualifying athlete earlier this week, noting she was taking a bit too much time in the ring before her throws.
“Normally, she’s not nervous and I think the nerves got the better of her last week. We kind of had a talk Monday,” Koontz said. “[I told her], ‘You know what to do. Now, you’ve just gotta go out there and execute it.’”
Koontz wants all his girls to soak up the experience, which includes University of Illinois signee Christina Young, a wheelchair athlete who qualified for state prior to last weekend. Young competes in the 200 and 800 meter races and the shot put.
“I want ’em to enjoy it and have fun,” he added. “At this point in time, they’re one of the top 16 girls in their [respective] events.
“I really look forward to them competing against some great competition. [They just need to] take it in, relax and enjoy it.”
The Lady Colonels aren’t the only local team with a trio of qualifiers. Along with its aforementioned sophomores, Woodland has a third second-year athlete, who has made the trip to Albany before.
The last of the Lady Wildcat state qualifiers is Idraiah Thompson, who will be making a return appearance at state following an incredible freshmen year where she qualified for the 100 meter and 200 meter dash. Thompson again qualified for both events with dual eighth-place finishes at last weekend’s sectionals.
The season didn’t get off to as fast a start as was the case in her freshmen season, but the Woodland record-holder in the 100 and 200 should be ready to roll at state.
“She had a slow start at the beginning of the season,” Holloway said. “She really peaked at region. She broke the school record in the 100 and then she broke her own school record in the 200.”
Thompson’s region times in the 100 and 200 were 12.46 and 25.52 seconds, respectively, which were season bests. At sectionals, she had times of 12.79 and 25.90.
“I think the heat was kind of getting to her a little bit,” Holloway acknowledged. “Her time wasn’t great, but she made it into the finals.”
The heat shouldn’t bother Thompson much this week, but her coach noted that after running well during the first half of the 200, she suffered an injury.
“She rolled her ankle coming out of the curve,” Holloway said of last week’s 200. “Hopefully, by Friday, she can be completely recovered and ready to go.”
Holloway feels each one of his youngsters can excel at state and should be all the better for it as they progress through their high school careers.
“I’m taking three sophomores [to state], which is a good thing because hopefully they can continue to make it as they go up through high school,” Holloway said. “They’re very young, they’re very strong and all they’re gonna continue to do is get [stronger], I believe.
“I would say all three have a pretty good chance at getting onto the podium, finishing top eight.”
Should any of Woodland’s three qualifiers make it onto the podium in their respective events, they could join Cartersville’s Caroline Haupt as one of the county’s high placers. Haupt, the lone senior among all local female qualifiers, came in sixth last year in the 100 meter hurdles. She has an opportunity to better that performance.
This year, Haupt is seeded fourth after placing as a runner-up at the Class AAA West Sectional in Carrollton with a time of 14.83.
“She ran the best time of her career over there at the sectionals last Saturday,” coach Rusty Grimmett said. “It was a big improvement. She really did well there so I’m looking for her to at least run that again, and we’ve been really working a lot this week … on having a sprinter’s mentality.”
“I think she’s gonna have a real good chance going into it,” he continued. But, added, Grimmett, “You gotta perform in front of the best in state so you gotta duplicate that performance [from last week].”
Haupt, who plans to run next season at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., will aim to break her personal record this weekend, her coach noted.
“I think she’s real excited because she’s done well and she’s gonna go and run in college,” Grimmett said. “I think she wants to go out and finish the best she can. Her goal is to run a 14.6. If she does that, she’ll have a chance to be on the podium again or even win it.”
Haupt runs Thursday in the Class AAA 100 meter hurdles preliminaries, which begin around 5:30 p.m., and would advance to Saturday’s finals should she place in the top eight.
Other events of note, as they pertain to Bartow qualifiers, are the Class AAAA shot put, qualifying and finals, Friday at 10:30 a.m.; Class AAAA triple jump, qualifying and finals, Friday at noon; Class AAAA high jump and pole vault, qualifying and finals, Friday at 1:30 p.m.; wheelchair shot put, qualifying and finals, Friday at 5 p.m.; Class AAAA 100 meter dash, qualifying, 6:10 p.m.; and Class AAAA 200 meter dash, qualifying, 7 p.m.
Finals for the 100 meter and 200 meter dash are scheduled for 1:45 and 3:05 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, and the wheelchair finals for the 800 meter and 200 meter race are set for 2:35 and 3:30 p.m., respectively. The track finals on Saturday will video stream live on GHSA.tv at 1 p.m. DVDs will be available to order at GHSA.tv.