By Derrick Mahone
D.J. Smith didn't get the state record, but the Lovejoy senior was still able to capture his third straight state championship.
The Lovejoy senior jumped six-feet, 10 inches to win the high jump event at the Class AAAAA meet at Memorial Stadium in Jefferson.
"It is wonderful to be able to repeat as the champion," said Smith, who is headed to Auburn on a track and field scholarship. "It just shows you that your hard work will pay off."
The win was a little bitter-sweet as Smith fell short of his goal of breaking the state record of 7-3.5 set by Dothel Edwards of Cedar Shoals in 1983. Smith was capable of the mark as he has the top jump in the nation this season at 7-4 set at the Westlake Relays last month.
"It is a little bit disappointing," Smith by cellphone as he was riding back from Jefferson. "I've set my site now on trying to break the world record in a couple years."
Smith, who was also a standout on the school's basketball team, entered in the competition at 6-8 and then cleared 6-10 on his second jump. He scratched on three attempts at 7-feet.
He said the lack of competition might have played a role in him falling short of the state record. His closes competitor was Braylon Williams of Walton, whose best leap was 6-8.
"I really wanted to be pushed," Smith said. "You feed off the competition. I was pleased with this season, and I still have the best jump in the nation. I'm setting new goals now to try to achieve."
LaVelle Westbrooks of Riverdale was the only other area participant to win a state title on the first day of competition. The Georgia Southern defensive back signee, jumped 24-2 1/3 to win the AAAAA long jump event. He was seventh in the triple jump.
After the first day from Jefferson, Riverdale is tied for fifth with 12 points, all by Westbrook while Smith's 10 points ties Lovejoy for seventh.
Eagle's Landing Christian Academy is in fourth place with strong performances by Luke Baker, Brandon Dwyer and Tanner Rogers. Baker, a Georgia signee, finished runner-up in the 1,600-meters with a time of four minutes, 24.01 seconds.
Dwyer was third in the pole vault at 13-6 and Rogers had a throw of 48-4 1/3 to finish third in the shot put.
Baker will try to defend his 3,200 championship tonight.
Zach Sims of Eagle's Landing finished fourth in the 1,600 with a time of 4:25.7 while teammate Billy Wright had a jump of 6-4 to finish fourth in the high jump. Eagle's Landing has 10 points to tie Gainesville and Druid Hills.