Head coach Arron Haynes knew that his DCHS track and field team had multiple opportunities to finish strong at the GHSA Class AAA Track and Field Championships last weekend.
They came in with purpose and did not disappoint.
A week after three relay teams and two individuals progressed from the State Sectionals, they represented DCHS in the State Finals at Carrollton from Thursday, May 12, to Saturday, May 14.
At the State Finals, the Tigers finished with four top-six finishes and a school-record time set during the preliminary round by the girls 4x400 relay team.
The first highlight of the week came on Thursday when the girls 4x800 relay team finished sixth with a time of 10:34.64.
The all-sophomore quartet of Jules Phillips, Elizabeth Knight, Katie Gloeckner and Anna LeCave had previously finished as runner-up at the Region 7 Championships and fourth at the State Sectionals.
“[I’m] proud as can be of them…they’re a great group of hardworking girls,” Haynes said. “We were 10th last year, so if we move up four spots every year, we’ll be right as rain at that point.”
Next up were the preliminary races on Friday, where the region champion girls 4x400 team broke the school record by posting a time of 4:10.86. That time broke the record by two seconds and was three seconds faster than their region-winning time.
While LeCave and Ethan Smith were also able to progress through the prelims for the 800-meter race, the region champion boys 4x400 team was not able to qualify for the final race on Saturday.
The final day of action saw LeCave and Smith up first, both facing some of the hottest temperatures all day.
Both fought through the conditions, with LeCave able to push past a chasing pair and finishing sixth. Her time of 2:27.62 was just two seconds off from her school-record time set at the region championships.
Smith came even closer to his own school record at the State Finals, finishing fifth with a time of 1:58.40 to close out his Tigers career. That time was less than one second behind the record time he also set at the region championships.
“Ethan is a true champion and has had a remarkable career at Dawson County,” Haynes said. “I am better as a coach for having had the blessing of coaching him. Now I look forward to seeing what he can do at the next level.”
The final group to go was the girls 4x400 team, who would finish fourth after a dramatic final two legs.
Lauren Kurtz and LeCave both had strong legs, pacing the Tigers well within a tightly-packed back half of eight teams.
But it was Gloeckner who shot out of the cannon again in the third leg, much as she had done the previous week at State Sectionals in the 4x800 relay.
She turned the corner at the 200-meter mark and passed two runners to put the Tigers in the front of the chasing pack.
Emily Kurtz would sustain that momentum and fend off an approaching runner to solidify the 4x400 team as the top finisher of the night for DCHS.
“They all have put a lot of time and work into this race, not just physically but mentally,” Haynes said. “Katie really came up big both days…she found that extra gear this weekend and was fun to watch.”
Looking ahead to next season, Haynes is hopeful that the team can improve on this season’s results. In addition to the girls relay teams returning nearly all runners next year, other facets of the track and field team will benefit from a large group of underclassmen and incoming freshmen.
While Smith’s leadership will be missed next year, many rising seniors and juniors will have the chance to step into that role.
“Those girls relay teams are only going to get better. The next two years are going to be fun to watch,” Haynes said. “We are fortunate to have young ones step up each year so our program does not have to rebuild, only replace.”
(Julia Fechter contributed to this article)