Brandon Michea | Ledger-News
Combining for 19 top-six placings between the USA Track & Field Junior Olympic state and Region 4 meets, Sequoyah Youth Track Club’s (from left) Hailey Garman, Camille Leake, Mataya Gayle and Mya McRae have all punched multiple tickets to the USATF Junior Olympic National Championships, to be held July 22-28 in Greensboro, N.C. The Sequoyah quartet, however, make up just a handful of the county’s national qualifiers, as more than 30 Cherokee athletes — competing for the Creekview, Etowah, River Ridge youth track clubs, as well as various other local track clubs — earned national meet berths by placing top-five in their respective fields at the Region 4 meet earlier this month in Winter Park, Fla.
Next stop, North Carolina.
After more than 50 Cherokee County individuals placed in the top-eight at the state championships in June to qualify for the USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Region 4 Championships, nearly four dozen made the trip to Winter Park, Fla., July 4-7, where 31 punched tickets to the big stage — the 2013 USATF Junior Olympic National Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
Of the 31 qualifiers, five captured regional titles while advancing in at least two events, including Etowah High School standout Leena Morris, who is competing unaffiliated, Sequoyah Youth Track’s Mya McRae and Camille Leake, Etowah Youth Track’s Jamila Otieno, and Creekview Youth Track’s Jake Young.
Highlighting top-three showings in a trio of events, Morris sent the discus 124-feet, 11-inches to win the 16-under girls’ title. The rising junior, who was one of nine locals to advance to nationals in multiple events, also grabbed a second place finish in the shot put (41-09.25) and a third-place medal in the javelin (88-03).
Bettering her state long jump showing by more than nine inches, McRae leaped 12-00.25 to claim the 8U girls’ long jump championship and complemented that title with a 15.28-second run in the 100 meter for second place; while the 10U girls’ state high jump champion, Leake, cleared an extra 2.75 inches to win the Region 4 title with 4-00.75 performance. Leake also finished as the runner-up in the triathlon with 831 points — just one point behind Mia Moore, of Alpharetta. In garnering second, she won the high jump (3-08.75), took third in the shot put (18-10.75) and was eighth in the 200 meter (32.57).
Winning by more than 6 feet, Otieno sent the javelin 86-03 to best the 12U girls’ field, and took fourth in the 12U discus with a throw of 64-11.
Young, meanwhile, was the lone county boy to advance in a pair of events, as the Jr. Grizzlies’ distance runner claimed the 8U boys’ 1,500-meter event in 5:31.89 and took third in the 800 with a 2:45.22.
Also moving on in a pair of events were Etowah Youth’s Sydney Runyan and Emani Smart and Sequoyah Youth’s Mataya Gayle and Hailey Garman.
Runyan placed fourth in both the 12U girls’ 1,500 meter (5:19.35) and 3,000 meter (11:38.19); Smart was third in the 12U girls’ shot put (32-05.50) and fifth in the discus (64-09); Gayle took third in the 8U girls’ shot put (17-08.25) and fifth in the long jump (10-07.25); and Garman scored fifth-place finishes in the 12U girls’ 80-meter hurdles (15.26) and high jump (4-05).
Coming off a state-title run in the 200 meter, Etowah girls’ 10U standout Kali Terza took third at region, running a 29.59, and also qualified for nationals in relay, joining Makenna Calbert, Natalie Calbert and Meg Lance in placing third in the 4x400 relay with a time of 5:13.16.
Adding to the county’s list of eight title winners, Creekview’s Chase Burr complemented his state high jump championship with the Region 4 title, topping the 12U boys’ field with a 5-01; while fellow Jr. Grizzly Morgan Sanford recorded a 107-08 performance in the 18U girls’ javelin, defeating runner-up Isabelle Davis, of Florence, S.C., by 9-04; and Etowah Youth’s Sam Donley dominated the 16U boys’ 2,000-meter Steeplechase with a time of 6:32.99 — more than 40 seconds faster than second place.
Other county youth track program performers qualifying for nationals were Creekview’s Reilly MacNeill (12U girls; high jump; 4-07; second place), Taylor Smith (12U girls; shot put; 34-03.50; second); Naomi Daugherty (14U girls; javelin; 84-00; second); Dillon Roberts (12U boys; javelin; 104-10; fifth) and Scott Sanford (14U boys; javelin; 131-02; third); Etowah’s Peyton Runyan (8U girls; 1,500 meter; 6:19.25; fifth); and River Ridge’s Reilly O’Hare (14U girls; discus; 75-08; fourth), Zac Cantrell (14U boys; 3,000 meter; 10:09.51; fifth) and Peyton Neidhammer (16U boys; high jump; 5-00.25; fifth).
Competing for the Kennesaw-based Heat Track Club, rising Woodstock High School senior Kylon Drones finished as the runner-up in the 18U boys’ decathlon — just 36 points off the winning pace. On his way to posting 5,325 points, Drones won the 100 meter (11.89), long jump (20-02.50), 400 meter (51.42) and 110-meter hurdles (15.17), placed second in the pole vault (9-04.25), tied for third in the high jump (5-08.75), finished fifth in the shot put (33-04.75), landed in sixth in discus (80-01) and 1,500 meter (5:14.77) and took eighth in the javelin (78-09).
Also performing with the Heat from Cherokee, Etowah High School’s Savannah Smith placed fifth (5:13.74) in the 18U girls’ 1,500 meter, and Canton native MaKenzie Sanders was fifth in the 8U girls’ shot put with a 14-07.
Rounding out the county’s list of national qualifiers were River Ridge High School’s Olivia Reeves (Throw 1 Deep), who sent the hammer 108-10 for second in the 16U girls’ division; Woodstock native Livingston Morris (16U boys; unaffiliated) with his second-place javelin throw of 149-06; and Canton native Joseph Scott (Major Impact), who placed third (23-10.25) in the 10U boys’ shot put.
The USATF Junior Olympic National Championships are scheduled to take place July 22-28. Qualifiers had until July 16 to register for the event.