Mount Zion senior Marquett Simmons was second in the 200-meters and placed fourth in the 200 event as the Class AAAAA meet, which the Bulldogs won over the weekend. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
When Mount Zion senior Jonathan Ross crossed the finish line in 14.51 seconds in the 110-meters hurdles at Georgia Olympics XLIII to place second overall, it lifted a weight off the rest of the team’s shoulders.
A favorite to win the Class AAAAA meet, Mount Zion had plenty of work to do after the first day of events. The Bulldogs entered Saturday’s running finals with only four points and in 27th place.
Once finals started, Mount Zion begin to cut away at the lead, and finally overtook Region 5-AAAAA foe Union Grove with two events left. The Bulldogs would increase that lead before finally clinching the state title.
Mount Zion finished with 58 points for the win, while Stephenson had 46 points for second and Union Grove amassed 30 points to finish third.
“We knew at the beginning of the season that we had a group of runners that were capable of winning state,” Mount Zion coach Jason Battles said. “We have been chasing this title for the last 14 years.”
The Bulldogs had five individuals in eight events and both relay teams to score points for the championship. Senior Marquett Simmons was the only other team member to get a second place finish. Simmons ran a 21.5 seconds to finish runner-up in the 200 event.
He had a time of 10.66 second in the 100 meters to finish fourth.
Ross, who along with Simmons signed with Limestone College, was sixth in the 200 hurdles in 40.06 seconds. Andrew Nsuk placed third in the 400 event at 48.77 and ran the 800 in 1:59 to finish seventh.
Coming into Saturday’s finals, Nsuk and Simmons were seeded higher, but Battles said they had little rest than some of the other competitors because they had multiple events to do.
“We weren’t at our peak in the finals,” Battles said. “We had a good showing with a lot of personal-best times in the prelims. Overall, I was really pleased at how the team came back in the finals, and hung in there to win it.”
While his team wasn’t hitting their best marks during the finals, Battles said there was a caused for some concern throughout the meet.
“We were a little stressed,” Battles said. “I’m proud of the way they held it together. We were a little stressed, but everything started to click for us.”
Going into the final event, the 1,600 relay, Mount Zion pretty much had the championship in hand. Battles shuffled the lineup in the relay, and it produced the only championship for the team.
Battles inserted Joshua Simmons as the first leg of the relay.
“He was the only one that hadn’t ran multiple events all day, so I knew his legs were finished,” Battles said. “I think it helped that we re-arranged our lineup in the relay. It was a great way to end the meet.”
In Class AAAAA, Lovejoy finished tied with Walton for sixth overall with 25 points. Preston Williams was the only individual in the county to win a state title.
The Lovejoy football standout had a jump of 24 feet, 2.5 inches to win the long jump event. He went 48-8.5 to place second in the triple jump.
Lovejoy’s 400 meters relay team of Kevin Faniel, De’Jarrious Hutcherson, Brandon Williams and Preston Williams was fourth with a time of 41.79 seconds. The Wildcats entered the running finals in second place on the strength of a strong showing in the field events.
Justin Elim of Riverdale had a throw of 148-1 to place third in the discus at the Class AAAA meet.
In the Class A public-school meet, Elite Scholars Academy in Morrow, was 19th overall with 11 points. The team was led by Stephen Smalls, who went 126-2 to place third in the discus.