The Georgia High School Association Boys State Track and Field Championship commences today with field events, and by the time everything wraps up Saturday afternoon with the presentation of trophies, boatloads of athletes will have given all they had to earn one -- including 12 from the county.
Taking part during the three-day event, Georgia Olympics XLI, will be Adairsville's Zach Coker and Christian Howell, Cartersville's Olajuwon Harris and Dandre Quattlebaum and Woodland's Deo Adams, Bryce Marratta, Qua Stocks, Twan Terrell, Brandon Thompson, Trey Thompson, C.J. Woods and Josh Young.
Adams and Howell are the lone state qualifiers appearing in two individual events -- Adams in the triple jump and 300 meter hurdles and Howell in the triple jump and 110 meter hurdles.
At last year's state meet, Adams completed the 300 meter hurdles in 41.07 seconds, good for sixth place. He enters this year's Georgia Olympics as Class AAAA's fourth seed following his showing at the west sectional held May 28 at Starr's Mill High in Fayetteville, where he ran a 38.61 in the 300 meter hurdles.
Based on seeding alone, Adams stands a good chance to improve his finish at state.
"He placed as a sophomore and as a junior last year. That was even more amazing for him because he made it down there with a pulled hamstring," Wildcats coach Adrian Steele said of Adams' 2011 appearance. "The thing I love about Deo, when [there is] competition, he runs to the occasion. ... I feel like he's a kid that's capable of 38 [seconds] flat or maybe even 37 high.
"When he runs, it's special," Steele added. "He has a heart of gold and the heart of a lion."
In the triple jump, the senior doesn't place nearly as highly going in. Adams, who reached a distance of 44 feet, 5 inches at sectionals, is 15th entering this weekend's triple jump event.
While Adams makes his return to the state meet, Howell, who also is a senior, is set for his Memorial Stadium debut.
"He had to overcome a little bit. He was in region where he tore his hamstring. He really overcame that and did real well in sectionals," Tigers coach Doug Byerts said. "Luckily, we had time to recover.
Howell will be joined at the state meet by his teammate Coker, a fellow senior who qualified in the high jump.
Byerts said the two are doing well and happy to have gotten to this point. "[I'm] proud of 'em."
It hasn't been an easy week for anyone in the Adairsville High family after the accidental shooting death last Friday of 18-year-old Austin Harriss, a soccer player at the school.
Byerts acknowledged that Howell and Coker have to handle the difficulty of "losing a classmate, but they've continued to work hard."
"I think both of 'em have a good chance to get on the medal stand in their events," he continued. "I think if [Coker] can get up there [to] 6-4, he's gonna be on that medal stand somewhere."
Coker enters his event seeded ninth and jumped 6-2 at the Class AA west sectionals at Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross. Were he to jump a 6-4, he could possibly elevate all the way up to at least third, or better.
Howell's best chance for a top-eight finish may come in the 110 meter hurdles.
"His best chance [to medal] is probably in the 110 hurdles, but if he can stick one [he also can medal in the triple jump, too]," Byerts said of Howell, who has a time and seed of 15.83 and 13th in the 110 meter hurdles and a distance and seed of 42-8 3/4 and 11th in the triple jump.
A third Bartow hurdler will be in the mix for a place on the podium. Cartersville's Harris came in sixth at the Class AAA West Sectional at Carrollton High after running a 15.20. He is seeded eighth in this week's meet.
"We're excited to go back, and I think he's got a different focus this year and I really think he's about to explode," Purple Hurricanes coach Rusty Grimmett said of Harris, who qualified last year as a junior.
The coach believes Harris can run in the 14.8-second range.
"If he does that, he will definitely be in the finals and he will be up pretty high on that podium," Grimmett added. "I really feel good about what we've done the past 10 days with him and I think he's gonna be ready."
As for Quattlebaum, it will be the first Georgia Olympics for the senior, who has been a refreshing story.
"Dandre, he's a pleasant surprise because I don't know that he's every played a sport in his high school career [before this year]," Grimmett said. "He practiced with a purpose. It says a lot about him. He did well in the high jump."
Quattlebaum, who was fifth at sectionals, is one of seven high jumpers tied for the ninth seed with a 6-0. Another four high jumpers have cleared 6-2.
"It's gonna be pretty tight right there. It's gonna come down to who doesn't miss at early trials," Grimmett acknowledged. "For example, if he's at 6 feet, he needs to make that [jump] at first trial because there are a bunch of 6-foot jumpers [and] 6-2 jumpers."
At sectionals, Quattlebaum didn't waste any opportunities.
"He actually did that at sectionals, made it on his first try," Grimmett continued. "I know coach [Emerson] Bridges has been working with him on that, talking to him about that."
As Adairsville and Cartersville try to get the most out of their qualifiers, Woodland will look to do the same, with a fast start hopefully equally a superb team finish.
Aside from Adams, the Wildcats have state-qualifying high jumpers Stocks and Brandon Thompson, a state returnee; Marratta, pole vault; Woods, 100 meter dash; Young, Terrell, and Trey Thompson, 4x100 and 4x400 meter relay teams.
Woods also is on the 4x1 team while Adams completes the 4x4 team.
"This is the most [athletes] I've had to take to state since I've been at Woodland," Steele said. "This is a special class. This senior group they've been special ever since they were freshmen. ... I think they will want to go out on a strong note."
Brandon Thompson will be among the Wildcats kicking things off today. Steele would like for his guys to come out the gates strong.
"I 'm expecting Brandon Thompson to place high; I'm expecting Qua Stocks to place high; and I'm expecting Bryce Marratta to do well," he added. "
As for his relay teams, Steele said, "The guys are running well, but it all comes down to the handoffs and how bad you want it. ... You either go hard or go home."