Cass' Christina Young, a wheelchair athlete, was the lone competitor in her respective competition but found plenty of motivation on Friday when she broke the state shot put record with a throw of 13 feet, 3 inches. In her other events, which were held Saturday, Young finished the 800 and 200 meter races in times of 2 minutes, 37 seconds and 35.5, respectively.
"She had her best time," said Lady Colonels coach D.L. Koontz, noting Young, a University of Illinois signee, was on a mission to set marks this weekend, personal or otherwise. "She did a great job, obviously. [She] threw a foot farther than she has all year."
Also capping a wonderful three-day weekend among local state qualifiers were Young's teammate Janee Callahan, Woodland's Brianna Brown and Cartersville's Caroline Haupt, each of whom placed near the top of their respective events.
Brown had the highest finish of the weekend when she tied for second place in the high jump by clearing a height of 5-2. Kell's Kendell Williams won the event with a 5-8.
"We were really proud of her," Lady Wildcats coach David Holloway said of Brown, a sophomore making her first appearance. "Everybody jumped less than what they normally do. It was so hot out there. Even Kendell Williams jumped less than what she normally does."
Typically, Brown clears 5-4, which would have given her sole possession of second place. The Woodland high jumper finished in a three-way tie with Lambert's Savannah Smith and Ware County's Brittany Ealey.
Another sophomore placer was Callahan, who shook off last weekend's performance from sectionals to place eighth and set a school record in the shot put with a throw of 38-6 1/2 on Friday.
Koontz had hoped for a steadier outing from Callahan after a seemingly nervous effort at Starr's Mill High in the Class AAAA West Sectional. He got what he was looking for as Callahan delivered the goods on the biggest stage of the Georgia high school track and field season.
"Janee finally grew. She's been throwing 38, 39 [feet] in practice the last two weeks, but it doesn't matter what you do in practice," Koontz said. His thrower didn't appear nervous at all, he added. "She just had fun with it. ... She broke our school record, which was previously held by Kayla Owens [who broke it] in 2007."
"Albany seems to be a good place for our girl throwers," said the Cass coach, who hadn't had a girl state qualifier since Owens five years ago.
While Callahan and Brown made their debut at the state meet podium, Haupt followed her sixth-place finish from last year by turning in a fifth-place showing in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 14.73.
A couple of days before Saturday's final, neither Haupt nor coach Rusty Grimmett thought much of her preliminary time of 15.35, which also put her in fifth.
"She didn't feel good about it, I didn't feel good about it," Grimmett admitted. With a day between prelims and finals, the two used the extra day to fine tune some things. "We had all day Friday. We actually went over to Albany State ... We practiced for about 45 minutes, and she believed in [our strategy] and felt good with it.
"After we went out Friday in practice, we kind of all put it down on paper, broke it down," he continued. "On paper, it looked like she could run a 14.60-something. That was her goal, and she actually wrote some of those things down to remind herself [of what to do at each point in the race]."
When Haupt completed her race Saturday, she knew she had run the kind of race she wanted, her coach said.
"I'm proud of her," Grimmett added. "She knew she ran well when she finished. She was excited about it, her folks were excited."
Not every athlete making a return to state experienced the results she desired. Woodland's Idraiah Thompson ran some of her best times of the season in the 100 and 200 meter dash, but couldn't make it out of preliminaries Friday thanks to a stacked field.
"She did very well. She ran almost her best [time] in the 100," Holloway said of Thompson's 12.52 time, which earned her 14th place. "She did really well in the 200. She broke the school record again -- in lane 8."
This time the sophomore set the school mark with a time of 25.14. It was about 14 hundreths of a second from what she probably needed in a rather fast heat. She came in 12th.
"You had to run under 25 to make the finals. That's really fast," Holloway acknowledged. "[It] just wasn't enough and [we] just have to keep working on it."
The Lady Wildcats' third sophomore qualifier Samantha Patterson also performed well, despite finishing outside of the top eight -- by just one spot, it should be noted. Patterson's ninth-place effort came after she cleared a distance she routinely makes in the pole vault -- 9-6. It missed, however, her career-best vault of 10.
"She ended up vaulting about the same as she usually does ... but was unable to tie her best mark of 10 feet," Holloway said. "The pole vault has really improved in the past few years. In the past we've had people that have vaulted 8 feet and made it to the podium. She vaulted 9-6 and finished ninth.
"I thought all three [girls] did well with all [of them] being sophomores -- two of 'em being there for the first time."
Amber Bowen, a Cass junior, was making her debut at state as well, albeit during some unfortunate timing. Bowen, her coach said, injured her kneecap during the 100 hurdles at sectionals, leaving her a bit comprised for her triple jump event.
"We didn't do any jumps at all," Koontz said. "She went in, she competed. She would have had to have had an amazing jump to make it to finals. ... I was utterly impressed with the triple jumpers."
Bowen wound up jumping a distance of 30-9 for 16th place, 4 feet from her season-best jump at sectionals.
"Sometimes you do great, other days things like that happen and affect you," he added. "Overall, [our] girls did a good job to come out of the region we came out of and then sectionals, and then to make it all the way in to state is an accomplishment in itself."
Like most of this year's other local qualifiers, Bowen gets at least one more crack to qualify for state next year and improve from this weekend's finish.
Some, however, will simply move on, like Haupt, who is headed to run track in college at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
"There's a time for everything, and I think it's time for her to move on and run in college and go on to App State," Grimmett said of Haupt. "The things I'll miss most about her are her competitiveness, her toughness and her spirit. I think when she gets into an environment where she can train with weights in an explosive manner, she's gonna really do well."