Girls track standouts vie for state titles
by Emily Horos
May 01, 2014 04:00 AM | 1899 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After a fourth-place finish at last week’s sectional, Etowah’s Savannah Smith, right, will compete for a state championship in the 800-meter run this week in Albany.
<Br>Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
After a fourth-place finish at last week’s sectional, Etowah’s Savannah Smith, right, will compete for a state championship in the 800-meter run this week in Albany.
Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
When the girls track and field state championships are held this week in Albany, Cherokee County will be represented by a dozen athletes vying for individual titles.

None of the five schools that will be represented — Creekview, Etowah, River Ridge, Sequoyah and Woodstock — have enough athletes to contend for a team title, but there are several individuals who could reach the podium.

For some, like Creekview’s Camille Fahrnbauer or Woodstock’s Alexandra Melehan, the trip to the state meet has become an annual pilgrimage. For others, like River Ridge underclassmen Olivia Reeves and Halei Rich, it could be the first trip of several.

River Ridge coach Barry Lakes said the state meet comes at a good time for Rich, a high jumper competing at her best right now. Reeves will compete in the discus.

For both, Lakes hopes it will be an indication of what they can do in the future.

“I think they’ve both got a good chance,” he said. “I think they can both place in the top eight. I think this will be great, for both of them being underclassmen. Halei is only a junior and Olivia is only a sophomore. It will give us a look at how they can do next year.”

Melehan will join Etowah’s Kingsley Green for the 1,600-meter run finals tonight. The top qualifying time of 5 minutes, 8.84 seconds was submitted by South Forsyth’s Savannah Carnahan, with Green’s qualifying time 9 seconds slower, and Melehan’s a second beyond that.

Green and Melehan are near the middle of the pack, which may allow them to move up into a time that could put them on the podium.

On Friday, the largest classifications will get their turn at the field events, which will bring a large group of Cherokee County athletes out to compete.

Etowah’s Leena Morris will attempt a sweep of the throwing events by competing in both shot put and discus. She will face fierce competition from around the state, however, including a pair of college-bound athletes in Johns Creek’s Hayden Merrick and Tift County’s Staceyanna Murrell.

With the second-best qualifying mark in the discus at 129 feet, Morris will be one of the final competitors to throw in the second flight, which means she will know where the bar has been set. Merrick, however, will follow Morris with the final throw.

In the shot put, which will be held shortly after the discus is completed, Morris is the top qualifier with a throw of 42-9. Trailing her are Walton’s Tatiana Tayler, Merrick and Murrell. Morris will get the last attempt in the second flight of that event.

Etowah pole vaulter Kelsey Keith will also compete today. A junior, she cleared a mark of 8 feet to qualify, which is near the bottom of the pack. Tift County’s Katelyn Utley set the standard when she cleared 11 feet.

In the morning session, Fahrnbauer will compete in the high jump, marking the third time in the state meet for the Creekview junior, who took second last year and fifth as a freshman.

Sequoyah will have two athletes — Alexa Johnson and Kennedy Williams — competing in the pole vault. Of the two Williams, had the better qualifying mark at 9-6 but she was well shy of Woodland-Bartow’s Samantha Patterson, who cleared 11 feet.

In the second session Friday, qualifying will be held for the Class AAAAA and Class AAAAAAA running events.

Etowah’s Savannah Smith will attempt to qualify in the 800. Smith, who is in the first heat, would need to finish in the top two of that race, or have one of the four next-best times, in order to advance to the finals.

Also in preliminaries, Woodstock’s Arielle Hunter will attempt to qualify in the 400.

Near the end of the action Friday, both Green and Melehan will line up for the 3,200. Green (11:28.78) is just 3 seconds off the top qualifying set by Carnahan. Melehan is seeded No. 6 in the 16-person field.

In the Class AAAAA portion of the meet, Sequoyah’s Aleah Johnson will attempt to qualify in the 800.

Saturday will feature the running event finals.
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