Steadily, the Rockmart High School track and field teams set their pace on the first day of the Region 6-3A championships last week.
The boys and girls squads held a slim hold onto the top spot in the team standing with just a few field events completed.
By the time it got to the afternoon of the second day of competition, Rockmart was well on its way to complete dominance.
Powered by strong relays and record-breaking performances, the Jackets and Lady Jackets each piled up the points last Wednesday in their home stadium to sweep the region track and field titles.
The Rockmart boys finished with 162.5 points, 33.5 points higher than second place Coahulla Creek, while the Rockmart girls went from a 1.5-point lead after Monday’s opening day to a 52.5-point lead when the final event was completed.
“I can’t say enough for our assistant coaches that help. I promise you that there’s a lot behind the scenes that goes on and those guys do a fantastic job. And our kids do what we asked them to do,” Rockmart coach Rhett Parson said. “I’m proud of our kids, they really showed up today and they knew what was on the line.”
Rockmart’s girls finished with 168.5 points, while Sonoraville was second with 116 points. The biggest factor in the Lady Jackets’ victory was senior all-around athlete Keyarah Berry.
Berry won the girls’ long jump with a distance of 18 feet, 8 1/2 inches, breaking the school record in the process. She then took first in the girls high jump (5-1), 100-meter dash (12.97 seconds) and was part of the region champion girls’ 4x100-meter relay team that finished in 51.19 seconds.
“We’ve got athletes that if you just teach them and put them in the right spot, they break records,” Rockmart coach Andre Clark said. “For instance, Keyarah hadn’t long jumped in four years, but we were over there practicing one day and she comes over and says, ‘Hey, can I try that,’ and jumps 18 (feet) in practice, and I’m like, ‘Hey, you know what? You are in the long jump now.’”
Berry wasn’t the lone record-breaker for the Lady Jackets as freshman Zori Williams posted a mark of 32-8 in the triple jump. It got her second in the event but set a new school record just the same.
Berry and Williams are two of more than 20 Rockmart boys and girls who finished in the top four of an event at the region meet to qualify for the GHSA Class 3A state sectionals at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, May 8. The best there will punch their ticket to the state finals in Albany from May 13-15.
Also qualifying for sectionals is Alexis Teems, who won the 200 (27.96 seconds), took second in the 100 (13.15) and third in the long jump (17-1). Alyvia Hope took first in the girls’ discus throw with a distance of 85-5 1/3 and third in the pole vault at 7 feet even.
Bailey Kennedy came up just behind Berry in the high jump at 5 feet for second place, and Trista Landgren finished second in the 800 at 2 minutes, 52.09 seconds. Bryanna Fortenberry was fourth at 2:53.57.
Katelyn Samples came in third in the shot put with a distance of 27-10. Rockmart’s girls’ 4x400 team took second with a time of 4:49.22.
In the boys’ events, Rockmart’s JoJo Haynes won the 200 with a time of 23.17 and came in second in the 100 at 11.44. He also was part of the Jackets’ 4x100 region championship team that finished first in 43.72 seconds.
Tyshaun Johnson won the long jump with a distance of 20-7 1/2 while Lanear McCrary took third at 20-5 1/4. McCrary also took third in the triple jump (42-1 1/4) behind Mehji Floyd, who won the event with a leap of 42-5 1/2.
Dedric Gibson was fourth in the long jump at 41-3 and finished third in the 100 with a time of 11.58.
Grant Lisk took second in the discus throw at 129-1 2/3, and Sherman Davis was fourth at 110-9.
Other Rockmart boys qualifying for sectionals are Tae Middlebrooks (3rd — shot put), Dennis Sims (3rd — high jump), Javin Whatley (4th — 200), Jakari Clark (4th — 400), Jeremiah Williams (4th — 110-meter hurdles) and Omarion Garrett (4th — 300 hurdles).
Rockmart’s boys’ 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams also finished third.