Mount Zion senior Austin Smith(left) and Lovejoy junior Joe Marable talk in between jumps during the high jump competion Monday at the Region 4-AAAA Championships. Marable placed first with Smith taking second.
By Derrick Mahone
For nearly six hours, Joe Marable and Austin Smith battled against each other during the Region 4-AAAA track and field championships at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
Their competition moved from the long jump pit to the track and finally to the high jump event. When Marable, a junior at Lovejoy, finally cleared the bar in a jump-off, the competition ended.
Smith, a senior at Forest Park, placed second in the high jump after winning the long jump to qualify for the Class AAAA state meet next weekend in Jefferson. In addition, Smith missed qualifying in the triple jump as he placed third.
He will return to the track today as the Forest Park 400-meters relay qualified for the finals.
"I couldn't be more happier," said Smith, a South Carolina State football signee. "It's been a long day, and my muscles and ankle is hurting. I'm just glad the competition is over."
"We had been going at it all day," he said. "I love competing against Austin, but I'm glad it's over with now."
Last month, the two battled in the cold at the county championships, which Smith won at a personal-best 6-feet, four inches. Monday, they could only clear the bar at 5-10 before they went to a jump-off.
The two started competing before they had to run a leg on their respective 400 relay teams. Smith competed in both the high jump and triple jump at the same time.
"It was fun," Smith said. "Joe always brings out the best in me."
It was the first time that either had qualified for state. Marable transferred to Lovejoy last fall. He was a member of the Region 4-AAAA championship football team.
Marable has worn a knee brace during the competition because he has had fluid on his knee most of the season. Wildcats coach Dwight Callaway said he was pleased to see his junior excel to make it out of region.
"Joe has been one of our overall leaders this year," said Callaway, who is in his first season at Lovejoy. "He has gotten better each week. It is great that he will get to go to state."
Both look forward to meeting again at the state meet on May 5 at Memorial Stadium in Jefferson.
"I'll only have to do two field events, so everything should be fine," said Smith, who was a wide receiver and defensive back on the Bulldogs' football team.
"We joke around a lot with each other, but we are very competitive," Marable said. "I'm looking forward to breaking the tie at the state meet. Going up against Austin brings a lot out of me. He pushes me, and it is good motivation."
Region 4-AAAA Championships
When, where: Today, Twelve Oaks Stadium
Time: 1 p.m.
What's at stake: Top two finishers in each event qualify for state meet
Runners to watch: Girls -- S'Kayia Hampton, Jonesboro; Kenya Collins, Mundy's Mill; Evante Belardo, Forest Park; Britney McBride, Jonesboro; Kanetria Kitchens, North Clayton. Boys -- Ayrian, Morrow; Derrick Tucker, Morrow; Taurean Ferguson, Jonesboro, Stanley, McLaughlin, Lovejoy.