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Track and field: Hall County championships stacked with talent Saturday at Cherokee Bluff
Gainesville's John Jessup runs a relay event during a meet at Roswell High. Photo courtesy Richard Corbett

The 2022 Hall County championships are going to be a battle of stamina. 

Boys and girls championships will be decided during the one-day event Saturday at Cherokee Bluff High. 

With everything compressed from the originally planned two-day event, it will not be uncommon for many runners to take part in four events in the same day, a notable increase from most meets during the season. 

Field events will take place in the morning, followed by relay events and individual races. 

The Gainesville boys and Cherokee Bluff girls are the defending champions. 

While both have a chance to repeat, it will be a hefty field of teams with enough athletes to earn the team points needed to win. 

In addition, West Hall’s boys, Cherokee Bluff’s boys and North Hall’s girls, will also be in the thick of the chase for the team title. 

1. FOUR-EVENT CHALLENGERS FOR GAINESVILLE: John Jessup has a new school record in the 1600 (4:21), while Ashley Thompson is the defending state champion in the 3200. 

Both talented Red Elephants runners will be taking part in four events at Hall County, a move by their co-head coaches Richard Corbett and PJ Davis to get as many points across as many races, as possible. 

Jessup and Thompson will likely garner their fair share of points for the Red Elephants. 

However, Gainesville’s talent doesn’t stop with those two athletes. 

Markelle Cheek does the 110 and 300-meter hurdles and takes part in a pair of relay events for Gainesville. 

Freshman Shanise Newton, a pleasant surprise for Corbett, will also take part in four running events. 

In the field events, junior Jeremiah Telander is an immediate impact in the high jump (third-place in 2021 at North Hall), shot put and discus. 

Gainesville’s runners are bolstered by having juniors Naim Cheeks and JQ Drinkard competing this season, a mindful push by its new football coach Josh Niblett to have its players compete in the spring, Corbett said. 

This season, Gainesvillle has endured its myriad on-campus facilities upgrades, which directly impacts track and field. 

Running on an ‘asphalt oval’ this season, Corbett is grateful for all the other county schools that have allowed his group to practice on their campuses. 

Corbett said his distance runners also have used nearby Alta Vista Cemetery for training purposes. 

2. CHESTATEE BOYS POPULATE THE DISTANCE EVENTS: The back-to-back state champions for boys cross country have a lot of carryover to the spring. 

The War Eagles’ top four cross country runners (Garrett Grater, Gavin Grater, Noah Peters and Aaron Retana) will all be contenders in the 1600 at the county championship. 

Gavin Grater and Retana also do the 800, while Garrett Grater and Peters compete in the 3200. 

All four distance runners comprise its 3200-relay event. 

3. WEST HALL BOYS ON THE RISE: The Spartans are led by senior Stephen Clark, who is accomplished in the 800 and 1600. 

He was third overall at the cross country state meet earlier this year. 

Others to watch include Jaylen Fagan (long jump), Jermaine Vincent (triple jump and 200), Noah Legault (110 and 300 hurdles), and Tilil Blackwell (shot put). 

4. CHEROKEE BLUFF STRONG ALL AROUND: M’Kaylah Jackson is the returning county champion in the 100, while she’ll be pushed by her own teammate Olivia Owens. 

The Lady Bears are also deep in the relays with competitive squads in the 400 relay, 800 relay and 1600 relay. 

For the Bears boys, Jayquan Smith and Jordan Justice will be two of the main athletes to watch running. 

In the distance events, the Cherokee Bluff programs are both strong too. 

In the 3200, Austin Click carries the fastest time this season into county. Meanwhile, Adison Myers has a great shot to win for the Cherokee Bluff girls in the same event. 

Also for the Lady Bears, Hannah Cheek is ranked No. 2 in the state in the 100 hurdles and is bolstered in depth with Carson DeMars. 

In the shot put, Cherokee Bluff’s girls are led by Avery Jones, who has a county-best throw this season, along with Lauren Rule in the discus. 

Jordan Justice and Jhace Justice are also competive in the high jump, along with the running events. 

5. NORTH HALL BRINGS A TALENTED GROUP: Among many strong athletes, pole vaulter Simon Seid stands out for the Trojans. This season, he’s ranked No. 1 in all of 3A with a successful attempt recently of 15 feet, 1 inch. 

For the Lady Trojans, freshman Clodagh O’Bryant has set herself apart as the top 1600 runner. O’Bryant was a Hall County and Region 7-3A champion in cross country season. 

In the girls’ 3200 relay, North Hall’s girls are also a favorite to win at Hall County. 

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