Facing better weather and more of the top athletes from around the state, the second day of the GHSA Track and Field State Championships at Berry College got to highlight some local talent.
A trio of competitors from the surrounding area captured gold medals as they won state titles in three events Friday as the remaining field events were contested.
Model’s Megan Kent repeated as the state champion in the Class AA girls' high jump, Darlington’s Kacey Kemp won the Class A Private girls' discus, and Rockmart’s Zoryan Hendricks topped the field in the Class AA boys' triple jump.
Kemp blew away the competition with a distance of 126 feet, 1 inch, nearly 16 feet further than the second-place finisher.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Kemp said. “If you told me three years ago I’d be getting a state championship in discus, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d never thrown and I never even thought about it. Being able to do that in my senior year was great.”
Originally a shot put thrower as a freshman, Kemp began competing in the discus as a sophomore, then set out to break the Darlington school record.
With her winning throw Friday she surpassed the school record she had already broken during the Area 4-A Private meet in April at 125-8 1/2. The previous record had stood for 29 years.
“I feel amazing,” Kemp said. “My whole goal for my three years throwing is to break the school record. I broke it last meet, and to break it again, it’s been great.”
Heading into the final day of competition, the Lady Tigers are in sixth place in the Class A Private girls' team standings with 18.5 points.
In the Class AA high jump, Kent cleared 5-4 to win the event, the same height she jumped in sectionals to qualify for state.
St. Vincent’s Lily Kendall took second place after she took three attempts to clear 5-4. Kent only needed just two attempts to clinch the state title, though she said she struggled with nerves at first.
“Honestly, (at last year's state meet) in Albany it wasn’t that hard because I didn’t have a lot of family there watching, but then everybody is out here watching, so I felt like I had to do really good,” Kent said. “It was in my head. After I got out of that, I started to have fun and I was good.”
A multi-sport athlete, Kent was satisfied with her performance as her time as a Model Lady Blue Devil nears its end.
“I wanted to get it one more time before I graduated,” Kent said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’ll feel it after I leave. I feel like I went out with a bang. I ended basketball good and I feel like I ended track good.”
Kent, along with teammate Ellie Getchel — who won the pole vault state title Thursday — have the Lady Blue Devils sitting in third place among AA girls teams with 23 points.
Rockmart's Hendrick’s distance of 46-6 in the triple jump put the Jackets in ninth place among AA boys teams with 10 points after the second day of competition.
“We know there hasn’t been a state champion in Rockmart for a long time, so our coaches wanted us to execute, and today I went out there and I executed and I got the job done,” Hendricks said.
The senior still has a lot of work ahead of him on Saturday as he has a shot to claim state titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and as part of the Jackets' the 4x100 relay team.
“I feel pretty great coming into all my running events having this award,” Hendricks said. “I’m pretty blessed. It’s just one out of the four events I have to conquer.”
Darlington’s Tate Ratledge secured third place in the Class A Private boys' shot put with a throw of 49-2 1/2. Chattooga's Devin Price finished fourth in the AA boys' triple jump with a leap of 45-1/2.
In the Class 5A competition at Carrollton’s Grisham Stadium, the Rome High girls sit in third place after Day 2 with 19 points.
The boys and girls only raced in two finals events with Nora Bailey taking 10th in the 3200-meter run and Patrick Motes taking 11th in the boys’ 3200.
Rome did have qualifiers for Saturday’s finals with Jakobe Hamilton and Montrell Millsap both earning spots in the 110 hurdles finals, and Jataria Jackson qualifying for the 100-meter dash.
The Wolves’ 4x100 relay team qualified and set a school record with a time of 41.58. Rome's girls’ 4x100 relay team also set a school record with a time of 47.66, but came up just short of qualifying for the finals.
Both of Rome’s 4x400 relay teams also set school records, but did not qualify for the finals. The boys had a time of 3:25.27, while the girls had a time of 4:01.75.