Two weeks after a successful outing at the Region 7-AAA Championships, the Dawson County track and field team traveled to Greater Atlanta Christian to participate in the Class AAA State Sectionals.
The Tigers brought their seasoned relay teams to the event as well as some of their top individuals. In the face of high-level competition, three DCHS relay teams and two individuals earned spots at the State Finals in Carrollton.
“The times were right in line with where we wanted to be,” head coach Arron Haynes said. “The teams look strong going into the final weekend of state. They are all pushing for a top-5 finish if things work out right.”
Beginning the day for the Tigers was the girls 4x800 relay team, who had finished as Region 7 runner-up. In order to qualify for the State Finals, they would have to finish in the top eight of a single heat of 14 teams.
Starting the race was Jules Phillips, who established the Tigers as a contender in the race and on the bubble of qualifying places for the State Finals.
Elizabeth Knight was up next, keeping pace with a group that was beginning to separate itself from the back. By the end of her two laps, there were 10 runners in the contending group and the margin of error was thinning.
The push for getting inside of the top eight began to intensify during Katie Gloeckner’s leg. After remaining on the outer edge of the main group in her first lap, she made a charge in her final 200 meters and launched herself into the top six.
Anna LeCave would build on that momentum, running a blazing first lap and holding steady in her second lap to finish the race in fourth place. The team’s time of 10:31.16 was just three seconds off their region runner-up time.
Gloeckner and Phillips both hit personal record times in their legs.
Next to qualify for DCHS were LeCave and Ethan Smith at the 800-meter race. Now with races all at two heats, each knew that they had to reach a certain time to place within the top eight.
LeCave had finished third at the region championship but would not need to match her school-record time at the State Sectionals to safely qualify for the State Finals.
She finished seventh with a time of 2:31.05 but was six seconds ahead of the eighth-place finisher and six seconds off her region time.
“LeCave has probably had the best season of anyone beginning with the Region meet,” Haynes said. “This weekend she ran strong in all of her events. It is always exciting to see athletes peak at the right time and right now she is definitely doing it.”
Up next was Smith, who finished as Region 7 runner-up with his school-record time. He would run just one second behind that at the State Sectionals, finishing in second place with a time of 1:57.61.
The final two groups to qualify for the State Finals were the boys and girls 4x400 relay teams, who were the Region 7 champions.
First up was the girls team of Lauren Kurtz, LeCave, Gloeckner and Emily Kurtz, who finished sixth with a time of 4:16.43.
They were part of a tightly-packed group of four teams separated by just over half a second. The Tigers finished three seconds behind their region time, which would have been good for third place in the Sectional race.
The boys team also finished sixth with a time of 3:32.81, nearly identical to their region championship time. Bailey Dameron, Aaric Muilenburg, Will Kurtz and Smith pushed the boys team to a spot in the State Finals.
Smith will be locked in as he looks to cap off his decorated career at the State Finals in both the 800-meter and as anchor leg in the 4x400.
“Ethan has one thing on his mind and that is winning state,” Haynes said. “Whether or not that will happen depends not just on him but on some of the best runners that have come through the state recently. He is laser-focused right now and should be a top-4 for sure."
Also competing at the State Sectionals after qualifying at the Region Championship were the 4x200 relay teams, Dameron at the 100-meter race and Emily Kurtz at the 400-meter race.
The Class AAA State Finals will be held from Thursday, May 12 to Saturday, May 14, at Carrollton High School.