Posted: Saturday, April 21st 2012 at 6:31am
Track: West Hall surges to 8-AAA girls title, as records fall throughout
By Morgan Lee Editor
SUGAR HILL -- Coming out of the turn, LeNiesha Kearse already had a comfortable lead -- but it wasn’t enough for the West Hall track standout, not by a long shot.
Kearse exploded away from the pack in the 300 hurdles on Friday in the Region 8-AAA championships at Lanier High in Sugar Hill, carrying her team into the lead for good and leaving Monroe Area in her wake.
Kearse’s victory -- combined with an outstanding performance in the 4x400 meter relay in the next event -- ensured that the Lady Spartans nabbed their second straight Region 8-AAA championship, concluding a thrilling duel with the Purple Hurricanes.
“Monroe had just jumped in front of us in the standings (before the 300 hurdles), so I knew we needed a first place finish,” said Kearse, who also won the 100 hurdles on Friday. “That just pushed me that much harder.”
Kearse’s two gold medals were just part of an impressive day at the 8-AAA championships for West Hall, which also included a first place finish for high jumper Haley Hayes. The Lady Spartans did need a fourth-place finish in the 4x400 relay to ensure the team title -- though coach Cindy Herford wasn’t about to let her team get nonchalant.
“We told them we needed to finish right behind Monroe Area just in case,” Herford said. “It took every point to win it this year.”
The Lady Spartans did exactly what their coaches asked of them, finishing just behind Monroe in second place -- setting a school record by six seconds in the process.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” Herford said. “These girls have worked so hard. We knew it would be close today. We had done mock meet after mock meet and knew that it would come down to about five points between us and Monroe Area.”
The battle for first was just one of a number of exhilarating storylines on display Friday in the girls portion of the 8-AAA meet -- which also included stunning performances from White County’s Jessie Dotson in the 3,200 meters and Gainesville’s Sara Hayes in the 800.
After already claiming the 1,600 title on Wednesday, Dotson was among the prerace favorites in the 3,200, yet the senior eclipsed all expectations -- including her own -- by posting a Class AAA best time this season of 11:20 to make it a distance sweep.
“I had planned on running about an 11:28,” said Dotson, who shattered her own personal best by 17 seconds on Friday. “But I kept posting faster splits and with three laps to go I just went for it.”
Dotson hopes the stellar performance will catapult her to big things at next weekend’s state sectional meet in Macon and then in Albany at the state championships (May 3-5).
“I have a lot more confidence now than I had this morning, that’s for sure,” Dotson said. “I didn’t know I was going to run this fast.”
Similarly, Gainesville’s Sara Hayes walked away from Friday’s competition brimming with self-belief after posting a school record and personal best time of 2:22 in the 800 meters.
Like Kearse, Hayes tore away from the pack around the final turn, and crossed the finish line almost a full 30 meters in front of her closest competitor.
Hayes hopes to cut the time by two full seconds en route to Albany.
“I’m trying to break 2:20,” she said. “If I can do that, I can win state. I think I was ranked eighth in Class AAA coming in to today, and my previous best was 2:26. So this should put me top three.”
Judging by Friday’s showing, there should be plenty of local representation in Albany.
Link: Read about the boys Region 8-AAA meet results here.
Link: For complete results from the 8-AAA championships, click here
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