Every point counted for the White County Warriors in the boys' team race at the Region 7-AAAA meet last week in Roswell.
The Warriors found themselves in a neck-and-battle with Denmark for the runner-up spot heading into the final event, and thanks to a pair of relay teams, managed to hang on to the second-place spot.
The Lady Warriors, who were in second place after the opening day of competition, slipped back into a third-place finish.
The top four finishers in the running and field events head to Bogart Saturday for a Class AAAA sectional meet. WCHS and the rest of the athletes from Region 7-AAAA will join athletes from Region 3-AAAA, 4-AAAA and 8-AAAA at North Oconee High School. The top eight finishers in each event will move on to the state meet May 9-11 at Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany.
Blessed Trinity took the boys' region title with 163 points, while the Warriors finished with 103 points and Denmark checked in with 97 points. Marist (93), Chestatee (70), Flowery Branch (52) and West Hall (39) rounded out the boys' standings.
“Last week, we really talked about getting every point available to us,” WCHS head coach Jake Cantrell said. “BT was the clear favorite going in, and they took care of business, and we knew we would be in a dogfight with Marist and Denmark for the runner-up spot. We had some early races not go our way, but we came into the last race leading (the race for second place) by two points. Since we our B team made the finals, we knew we had at least one point from them, so it came down to our A team beating Denmark, and we were able to that.”
The relay team of Jay Lepkoske, Cameron Quinn, Noah Rapert and Dominic Stevens posted a time of 3:28.13 to win the event and wrapped up the team's runner-up spot. Denmark finished second in the race with a time of 3:28.34. The WCHS team of Jesse Thomas, Tyler Kinson, Jovani Gonzalez and Bennett Davidson finished seventh in the event with a time of 4:44.67.
Cantrell credited both relay teams, including alternate runners Karson Crowe and Eamonn O'Bryant, for coming up with stellar efforts to help keep the Warriors in the runner-up spot.
“We got a great effort from our guys in the prelims and the finals,” Cantrell said. “Karson ran in the prelims because Jay was having some issues with his hip. Having depth allowed us to sit him and get him ready for the finals. Karson, Jay, Cameron, Noah and Dominic all did a great job for us.”
The Warriors' 4x100-meter relay team captured second place. The team, consisting of Quinn, VerSluis, Crowe and Lepkoske, turned in a time of 43.82, finishing a tick behind Blessed Trinity (43.40).
Rapert earned the Warriors' lone region title in the individual running events by winning the 400-meter race. After finishing with the second-fastest time during the preliminary heats during the opening day of the meet, Rapert turned in a time of 50.83 to edge out West Hall's John Stoecker (51.87). Quinn also earned a spot in the state sectionals with a time of 52.93 to finish fourth.
“Noah posted a seeded time and he's got a chance to place at the state meet,” Cantrell said. “He's had a nagging injury all season and hasn't been able to train the way we wanted, but he fought through the injury and that shows a lot of maturity and character.”
In the 100-meter final, Lepkoske posted a time of 11.31 to finish in third-place behind Chestatee's Christian Charles (11.01) and Blessed Trinity's Zach Bolden (11.15). Lepkoske was seventh in the 200-meter race, posting a time of 23.86. Charles swept the sprint events, winning the 200 with a time of 22.24.
VerSluis qualified for state sectionals with a fourth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles, posting a time of 17.46. He was fifth in the 300-meter hurdles, clocking in with a time of 43.29.
In the 800-meter race, O'Bryant was fifth with a time of 2:02.44, while Gonzalez was ninth at 2:10.53. In the 3,200-meter race, Kinson finished 11th with a time of 11:07.06, while Davidson was 12th at 11:26.26.
Marist ran away from the rest of the field, scoring 185 points to easily win the region title. Blessed Trinity was second with 109 points, while the Lady Warriors finished with 104 points.
Much like the boys' division, second place came down to the final race with BT finishing third and sixth, while WCHS was fourth and eighth.
“BT caught in the last race,” Cantrell said. “Our goal was to run 4:15 and we ran 4:13, so we did a little bit better than our goal time, but they got us.”
Marist claimed the top two spots in the 4x400-meter race, with Blessed Trinity next at 4:12.74, while White County's A team of Kylie Johnson, Jaelen Alexander, Lily Gearing and Ellie Gearing turned in a time of 4:13.92. The Lady Warriors' B team of Chesnee Freeman, Kinsey Dockery, Meaghan Childress, Addie Bolton and Josie Stover had a time of 4:38.23.
Alexander won the Lady Warriors' lone running title with a victory in the 800-meter race. Running in a stacked field, Alexander came through with a stellar effort, finishing with a time of 2:21.26 to hold off Denmark's Jessica Perriello (2:21.70). Maggie Davidson finished eighth for the Lady Warriors with a time of 2:43.15.
Alexander owns the second-fastest time in Class AAAA this spring, behind Sandy Creek's Gabriella Grissom (2:16.52). Alexander won the 800-meter state two years ago as a sophomore and Cantrell believes she is ready to make a run at another title.
“Jaelen ran an unbelievable race,” Cantrell said. “This is the hardest region in 4A in the 800, and she was relaxed and confident, and the outcome was never in doubt. She's got the second-fastest time in the state (Class AAAA) can be right there (with Grissom) for the state title.”
Ellie Gearing qualified for state sectionals with a fourth-place in the 400-meter race, turning in a time of 1:03.48, while her younger sister, Lily, finished fifth at 1:03.70.
Lily Gearing did earn a spot in the sectionals in the 300-meter hurdles, finishing fourth with a time of 49.09.
Johnson was sixth in the 200-meter race with a time of 27.93, and finished eighth in the 100-meters at 13.46.
In the 3,200-meter race, Josie Stove just missed qualifying for sectionals, finishing fifth with a time of 12:49.66. Addie Bolton was seventh at 13:08.28.
In the 100-meter hurdles, Rachel Lovell placed sixth, turning in a time of 18.02.
The Class AAAA sectional meet will be held Saturday at North Oconee High School in Bogart.
The meet kicks off at 10: a.m., with the boys' pole vault. At 11 a.m., the girls' high jump, long jump and shot put will be held, along with boys' discus and long jump.
At 1 p.m., the girls' discus, pole vault and triple jump begins, while the boys' will compete in the high jump, long jump and shot put.
The running events begin at 3:30 p.m. with the 4x400-meter relay for both the girls and boys divisions. The running events in order are: 400-meter dash, 100-meter dash, 100/110-meter hurdles, 800-meter run ,200-meter dash, 300-meter hurdles, 3,200-meter run, and 1,600-meter run.