The Heritage Generals’ boys’ track team relied on a team effort to turn in one of the best seasons in school history this spring, so it’s only fitting that earning the Catoosa County Boys’ Track Athlete of the Year award be something of a team effort as well.
Senior Lavarius Hood and juniors Wes Lozano and Chandler Hill combined for five individual titles at the Region 6-AAAA meet back in April to help the Generals amass 169 points. That total was a whopping 60 points better than runner-up Pickens.
“It was a tremendous year for Heritage track and field, especially the boys since we won our first-ever boys’ region title,” head coach David Gibson said. “Those three guys had a big hand in that.”
Hood won the region title in the shot put (43-1.75) and discus (117-7). He went on to place third in the discus at the state sectional meet (139-10) and was fourth in the shot put (46-0). At the Class 4A state meet in Rome, his discus throw of 136-0 was good enough for eighth place and a podium spot. He went 44-4.5 in the shot put to finish 13th.
“It feels great to be able to go to state and at least place,” Hood said. “It may not have been the best place, but hey, I placed.”
He said it felt good be part of the team and to be able to represent Heritage.
“My favorite memory (at Heritage) was just meeting new people and making new friends, especially Coach Gibson when he came here,” he added. “The coaching staff has been amazing. My friends are amazing and it’s just been a great year.”
Hood will soon be joining the United States Marine Corps.
“There won’t be a whole lot of throwing the discus there,” he laughed. “Just a whole lot of running and getting yelled at.”
Lozano established himself as the top pole vaulter in Heritage history by breaking the school record not once, but twice before the season was over.
He cleared 12-feet, 1-inch to set a new personal best and a school record in winning the 6-AAAA title and finished in a tie for third at sectionals after topping out at 11-6. He placed seventh at state, but not before clearing 12-6 to set another personal best and a new Heritage mark in his final meet of the season.
In addition, he also competed in the 400 and the 4x400, running a leg on the Generals’ 4x400 region title team (3:37.01)
“It was a pretty awesome year and it was the best I’ve ever done at state,” he said. “(Sharing this award) is amazing. No words can really explain it.”
He said his goal for his senior year is to win state in the pole vault.
While Hood and Lozano were established track standouts prior to this spring, Hill was one of the new kids on the block. He admitted he was a little unsure about being a part of the team at first, but that all changed when he broke the boys’ school high jump record in his first-ever meet.
“Once I came out and had that first meet and broke a school record, I decided I liked track and I thought I’d stick with it,” he smiled.
Hill already holds the Heritage record in both the high jump (6-2) and the long jump (21-5).
He won a region title in the high jump (6-0) and tied for first in the long jump at 20-4.5, but had to settle for second on the jump-off tiebreaker. He went on to finish in a three-way tie for second in the high jump at sectionals (6-2) and was fifth in the long jump (21-3). He capped the year by tying for sixth in the high jump at state (6-2) and took 11th in the long jump (21-1).
However, he said that first meet of the season would be his top highlight.
“I just came out and I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” he explained. “But I guess I showed everyone that I was better than I thought I was.
“Sharing the award feels good. There’s about 40 or 50 other people on the team and there are only three of us that are here, so I’m honored to be one of those three.”
“They had solid performances all year long,” Gibson added. “There were a few ups and downs, but it was mostly just a solid, steady climb, peaking at regionals, sectionals and state. That’s where you want to find your best run, jump or throw.”