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April 24, 2014

TCHS hosts Saturday’s track sectionals

TIFTON — Step one is over for the Tift County Blue Devils. The region track meet took place last week and now it is time for sectionals and for the second week in a row, Tifton will be host to a big group of athletes.

"It's a nice variety of kids in your backyard from all the Atlanta schools you've heard of," said Devils boys coach Alonzo Hampton.

According to the GHSA's posted entry lists, a total of 458 athletes from 31 schools will be involved. Tift is one of two Class AAAAAA hosts, with regions 1, 2, 7 and 8 coming town town. McEachern High is the other host, handling the other four regions.

The number of participants from each institution varies. Mill Creek will be bringing the most, with 24. Habersham Central qualified only three for sectionals. Those two are also on opposite ends of the spectrum in events. The Habersham uniforms will only be spotted three times while Mill Creek will be visible all day, being in 29 events.

But numbers are numbers. "Anything can happen," said Tift's girls head coach Mike Collier. Giving one example, he said, "there can be bad exchange (on a relay)."

Collier said sectionals would really get going at about 10:30 a.m.

The Blue Devils are on the upper end of the scale. Twenty of them are in the same amount of events, with three being relays.

"It's a good representation for us," said Collier. His charges are in nine events.

Staceyanna Murrell and Quasha Fergerson are in the shot put. Murrell is also in discus. Three-time state champion Katie Utley takes part in the pole vault, Aquilla Hayes will be in the 300-meter hurdles, Sky Moore in the 400-yard dash. Diamond Gillum will be in the 200-meter dash, Dail Adaway participates in high jump and Collier had two relay teams make it. The 4x100 consists of Gillum, Moore, Shay Pitts, Karian Tolbert and Sharquavia Williams. The 4x400 has Gillum, Moore, Tolbert, Hayes and Moneisha Goldsborough.

"The girls who have qualified have done a phenomenal job," he said. "I feel good about all of our girls."

He has high hopes for all of his squad and said he was particularly impressed by Fergerson advancing to sectionals. He said this was her first year of throwing the shot. Fergeron's distance was the 9th best of all qualifiers. Murrell, who joins her in the event, had 2nd longest.

Utley had not only the top height of all qualifying pole vaulters, hers — 11'06" — was 1.5 feet better than the next. She has cleared 12 feet more than once.

Hampton will see eight events containing the familiar blue uniforms of the Blue Devils.

He believes he should be seeing more, but "I felt that some of our guys were winded" by the pace of the region tournament.

One individual who was not was Danny Patterson.

"Danny will have a pretty busy day," he said.

Patterson qualified for the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles and is a member of the 4x400 relay team.

Others participating are: D.D. Walker and Josh Ajiero in the 400-meter dash, Dalton Ellis and Donovan Smith in the pole vault and Isaiah Fullmore in the 800-meter run. Javier Clark will be in the shot put and discus and Ajiero, Barry Bennett, Patterson, Walker and Jermarion Billington are members of the 4-x400 relay team.

"Danny will be fine," he said. "Javier, his best (event) is probably in discus."

"I feel pretty good," he said. "It's good competition and we have to be prepared."

The top four will qualify to go to the state meet. The girls meet will be in Albany's Hugh Mills Stadium from May 1-3 while the boys have to wait another week. Theirs will take place May 8-10 at Memorial Stadium in Jefferson.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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