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MAHONE: Rivals meet at region meet

Derrick Mahone

Derrick Mahone

There is always that game within the game.

In the case of the Region 4-AAAA Track and Field Championship, which starts today at Twelve Oaks Stadium, it will be a track meet within the meet.

A new track rivalry has been brewing all season between Xavier Gates of Woodland and Taurean Ferguson of Jonesboro. They have squared off three times this season with Ferguson getting the best of Gates, who is having a breakout season for the Wolfpack.

If all goes right with today’s prelims, the two standout hurdlers will meet in Saturday’s finals.

On the girl’s side, Jonesboro’s S’Kayia Hampton will meet longtime rival Lorenda Holston of North Clayton for the final time in region competition. It is likely that the two will meet again in Albany at the Class AAAA championship next month.

Hampton and Holston, both seniors, are no strangers as they have competed against each other since middle school.

“I still remember that meet,” Holston said. “S’Kayia won that meet. We’ve been racing against each other eversince.”

They have battled each other throughout high school. And now, their time as competitors are dwelling down. With Holston signing with Colorado State and Hampton likely staying somewhere in the South, it could put an end to the friendly rivalry.

In fact, after the two finish competing next months for different schools, they are expected to run for the same summer track club.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Hampton said.

And they are both looking forward to this weekend.

Gates and Ferguson haven’t been competing as long, but they have developed a mutual respect for each other. While Ferguson was finishing second in the 110-meter hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles at state last season, Gates was failed to make the finals in the 110.

This season, he has been one of the biggest surprises in track.

“He is having a great year,” said Ferguson, who will attend Vanderbilt on a football scholarship this fall.

A muscular 180-pounder, Ferguson uses the combination of strength, speed and agility, which made his a top defensive back recruit to maneuver over the hurdles.

But he knows that Gates will be a challenge on the big stage this weekend.

“He pushes me,” Ferguson said.

And Gates seem ready for the big stage this time around. Ferguson has always performed in the spotlight whether on the football field or the track.

Gates is new to the spotlight, but his coach Dion Stokes insist last week at the Henry County Track and Field Championships that his star hurdler is ready.

“This is one of the meets that Xavier has been building for all season,” Stokes said.

But will the moment overpower Gates, or push him.

“He will be ready,” Stokes said. “I’m not concerned at how he will handle the moment.”

It is moments like this that make track one of the most exciting sports to watch.

Gates vs. Ferguson. Hampton vs. Holston.

The hype and excitement of two of the fastest events in track could be an instant classic.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com.