As expected, the Gordon Lee Lady Trojans - winners of the Class A Public School state track title the last time the event was held in 2019 - got out to a very strong start on the first day of the 2021 GHSA state championships in Albany on Thursday.
All that remains to be seen is whether or not they will have enough left in the tank to bring home another championship trophy on Saturday.
On the first day at Hugh Mills Stadium, Gordon Lee took first place in four of the six field events, scored points in two running events and had eight different athletes contribute points as they vaulted to the top of the team standings with 73 points.
Montgomery County, widely believed to Gordon Lee's main competition for the state crown, is currently in second place with 43 points with nine total events remaining.
Kaylee Brown was personally responsible for 23 of those points as she won the state title in the high jump and in the pole vault. She also placed sixth in the long jump.
Brown passed at the opening height of 4-foot-6 in the high jump before clearing 4-8, 4-10, 5-0, 5-2 and 5-4 in succession and all on her first attempts. She then matched her personal best and the GL girls' school record at 5-6 on her third and final attempt at the height. She gave it a go at 5-7, but missed on all three attempts.
The 5-6 jump was enough to give her the title over Montgomery County's Marley Bell. Bell cleared 5-4 on her second attempt, but missed all three of her tries at 5-6.
Gordon Lee also picked up six third-place points from Addison Sturdivant as she cleared 4-10 on her second attempt. Emeral Jones of Montgomery County also cleared 4-10, but had to settle for fourth place overall on the tiebreaker (fewest attempts at the height).
Later, in the pole vault, Brown set a new personal record and broke her own school record when she successfully cleared 11-0. Ansley Dendy also set a new personal mark with a height of 8-6, which was good enough for fourth place.
Brown reached 15-11.75 on her fourth of six attempts in the long jump. It appeared as though Bell might win the event for Montgomery County at 16-10.5. However, De'Aisha Stephens of Georgia Military College Prep bettered that mark at 16-11.5 on her sixth and final jump to take the title and force Bell to settle for second place.
Gordon Lee also swept both throwing events.
Arilyn Lee reached 36-11.25 on her second attempt, which turned out to be good enough to take the state title in the shot put. Montgomery County scored one point in the event for an eighth-place finish.
The in the discus, Madolynn Loyd's second throw of 105-7 turned out to be the longest throw of the day and gave her an individual state title. It was Loyd's only throw over 100-feet in six attempts. Lee finished second as her best throw of 101-9 beat Lenijah Cullars of Claxton by five inches (101-4).
Montgomery County answered with 18 points in the triple jump, getting a win by Bell and a runner-up showing by MaKyla Bell. Gordon Lee's Emma Phillips reached 32-4.75 with her best jump, but it was only good enough for 12th place and only the top eight score points in each event.
The 1600 and the newest event in Georgia high school track and field, the 4x800 relay, also had their finals run on Thursday. Haley Hartman placed sixth in the 1600 with a time of 6:04.12, while she teamed with Dendy, Cora Fehr and M.K. Roberts to set a new school record in the 4x800. Crossing the line in 11:38.23 gave them second place and eight huge points, while Montgomery County scored two for a seventh-place finish.
Friday will be another important day as preliminaries for eight of the remaining nine events will be held and teams will be hoping to see their athletes qualify for Saturday's finals, where points will be scored.
Preliminaries will be held in the 100, the 200, the 400, the 800, the 100 hurdles, the 300 hurdles, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay, starting at approximately 4:20 p.m., while the finals of the 3200 will be the last event contested on Friday night.
Gordon Lee is the top seed in both hurdle events, while Montgomery County is the top seed in both relays. However, because of performances at the sectionals last weekend, the Lady Eagles will have runners competing in two more events than the Lady Trojans. Both schools will have runners in the finals of the 3200 on Friday night.
After Saturday's opening ceremonies at 10 a.m., finals in the remaining eight events will begin at 10:45 and the meet should wrap up with the trophy presentations at around 3 p.m. Albany is also hosting the Class A Public School boys' meet, as well as the boys and girls' meets for Classes AAA and AAAA.
Class AAAA Girls
The same girls' events were contested in the other two classifications on Thursday.
Ridgeland's Mecca Spears placed seventh in the shot put finals with a throw of 34-10.25, which came on her final attempt, while teammate Cordasia Watkins (32-9) placed 10th.
Heritage's Caroline Hamilton and Ridgeland's Annabel Hill both cleared 4-8 in the high jump, but Hamilton's would place eighth on the tiebreaker, giving her a spot on the podium, while Hill finished up in 10th.