The GHSA track & field meet has split up into three venues this year, and everybody is running, throwing and jumping at the same time.
Instead of the girls one week in Albany and the boys a week later at Jefferson, they’ll both compete, but at Berry College, Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany and at Grisham Stadium in Carrollton.
The meets, which start Thursday, will also display the impact of reclassification and that of adding a seventh classification.
And there’s more suspense for Middle Georgia, which for years had several defending individual champions. This year, not so much.
Gone are standouts like Cassondra Hall (Warner Robins and Northside), Amecia Pennamon (Mary Persons), Ellen Powell (Bleckley County), Calli McMullen (GMC), Robby Watson and Maggie Johnston (FPD), among others.
There are a few defending champs back.
Carson Dingler dominated in Class 1A while at FPD, but she is now at Class 4A Mary Persons.
Also back to defend, in their respective classes: Westside’s Zoe Jordan in the triple jump 3A, Abigail Kirkland of GMC in the 300 hurdles, Bleckley County’s Carl Ellis Corley in the 3,200 and FPD’s Titus Moore in the 110 hurdles.
And scores of others were near a title last year and are back to try and get over that hump.
GMC enters this year’s meet with two straight girls championships, but the Bulldogs lost a number of quality point-getters and would need a monster day and some help to get a third straight title.
Baldwin, Peach County’s boys and Bleckley County’s boys are the area teams most likely to seriously contend for a state title.
Baldwin is a contender in both the boys and girls meets in Class 4A. Projections by www.ga.milesplit.com have the boys finishing sixth — but only 12 points behind top seed Marist — and the girls fourth — 12.5 points behind top seed Chapel Hill.
Zykeria Williams has the top qualifying time for the girls in the long jump, 100 and 200, and Mollie Spieghts has the third-best high jump qualifier.
Jatavious Harris is first in the 200 and second in the 100, and Baldwin has a top-seeded relay in both boys and girls.
Mary Persons’ girls, led by Dingler and Olympia High, could make noise, as well.
Peach County’s boys, led by three-event qualifier Kearis Jackson, projects to be second in Class 3A, less than 13 points behind Cedar Grove.
The Trojans are in the top five in seeds in seven events, topped by three events with the No. 2 qualifying mark: Kyle Nixon in the 400, and both relay teams.
Bleckley County looks to be the best competition for Class 2A boys favorite Vidalia, predicted to win by 11.5 points.
The Royals have top seeds in Torenio Davis (high jump), Will Simmons (pole vault) and Corley (1,600 and 3,200).
The Royals were third last year, behind Wesleyan and Vidalia.
The girls from Central in Class 3A and East Laurens in Class 2A have a fair number of qualifiers.