BY Chris Goltermann
Talk about putting your best foot forward.
East Coweta’s boys track team took a strong first step in its pursuit of a possible 2019 Region 2-7A championship by amassing 79 points over the first seven events to record finals this week at Drake Stadium.
The meet wraps up on Saturday in what expects to be a heated race that includes challenges from Newnan and Westlake among boys teams in running finals.
The Indians, however, had multiple scorers in all six field events to go with two state qualifiers in the boys 1,600 meters to jump ahead of the competition.
The mile had all four qualifying positions for next week’s Class 7A sectionals going to local runners. East Coweta junior Kyle Harkabus put his quest for another state title in the 1,600 into high gear by winning a region title in 4:26.92.
Newnan teammates Gray Frederick (4:31.12) and Beck James (4:31.82) crossed side-by-side in second and third, respectively, just ahead of Indians sophomore Colby Butts, who also qualified with a season-best of 4:34.66.
The remainder of running finals will be held Saturday following Wednesday’s preliminary efforts.
After day one, East Coweta leads Westlake (57), Pebblebrook (24) and Newnan (24) in boys standings.
Campbell’s girls left the opening day at Drake Stadium with 58-52 lead over second-place Westlake. East Coweta stayed in range while in third with 45 points ahead of Pebblebrook (23), Wheeler (20) and Newnan (14).
The Indians received at least one sectional qualifier in all six field events including victories in the high jump, long jump and pole vault.
Senior Brayden Carey qualified in both the high jump and long jump during a busy first day. The Yale signee, who had been limited to just two outings in the high jump all year while splitting duties with baseball, cleared 6-4 on his final attempt to hold off Westlake’s Caleb Dixon.
Junior Christopher Pitt led a long jump effort dominated by county standouts to give East Coweta another victory with a leap of 22-3. Newnan senior Elijah Williams was right behind in second at 22-1 ½, followed by Carey at 21-7 in third.
Indians teammates Nick Enright and Eli Maples both advanced in the pole vault with efforts of 8-6 and 7-0.
Boys qualifiers for East Coweta in field events also included a runner-up effort in the triple jump of 43-7 by Rakiyan Moss. Nelson Ramirez placed fourth in the shot put at 43-7 and also was fourth in the discus at 119-7 while just behind Indians teammate Christopher Moore’s third-place effort at 129-10.
East Coweta had additional scoring efforts in field events from Jamil Burch (5th,triple jump) and Corey Bridges (6th, shot put) as well as Rigon Musliu (5th, high jump).
Musliu battled Westlake’s Cameron Woods over multiple heights in a jump off with Newnan’s R.J. Stevens after all three athletes cleared 5-8.
In addition to Williams’ runner-up performance in the long jump, The Cougars received qualifying efforts in field events with a second-place effort from senior San Juan Warner in the discus.
Warner, who was this year’s county champion in the event, had a top throw of 136-3 to place behind only Westlake standout Aston Beavers’ impressive winning effort of 169-3.
Also scoring for Newnan’s boys were Steven Carter (6th, discus) and Malik Simmons (7th, triple jump).
The Cougars have a chance to gain ground in running events while led by senior siblings Malik and Tyriq Hussie. Newnan’s boys qualified in six running events with Tyriq leading preliminary finishers the 100 and 200 and Malik topping the field in the 400.
Newnan also has a chance to also score twice in the 3,200 meters.
East Coweta’s boys will counter with multiple qualfiers in the 100 and both hurdles. The Indians will also be represented in the 400 relay, 200, 400 and 800, with Harkabus leading qualifiers in the latter event as well.
The Lady Indians had scorers in all six field events while led by senior London Fowler’s second-place finish in the shot put of 34-7 ½, behind only Campbell’s Lailah Malone (38-5).
Madi Duke set a personal best of 5-2 to place third in the high jump behind winner Kaylen Madrey of Newnan to qualify for sectionals.
Hannah Kunkle also qualified for sectionals in the discus for East Coweta, placing fourth at 97-1/4 while finishing just ahead of teammate Kylie Furguson (5th, 91-5).
In the 3,200, Lady Indians senior Holly Hind earned a trip to sectionals with a fourth-place finish in 13:21.34.
Scorers for East Coweta’s girls also included Deja Fowler and Lola Cheves, who placed fifth and seventh in the triple jump.
Senior Paishence Collier just missed a qualifying effort by two inches while placing fifth in the long jump. She will have a chance to advance, however, in the 800 after posting the second fastest time among qualifiers.
Xiann Cooley also scored for East Coweta’s girls after taking second in the pole vault after a jump off with Pebblebrook’s Mariah Davis.
Mary Ellen Goltermann was seventh in the 3,200.
Newnan’s girls were led by Madrey’s victory of 5-6 in the high jump with a chance for the sophomore to add to her total on Saturday after qualifying efforts in the 200 and 400.
Mya Stevens contributed to the Lady Cougars’ scoring on Wednesday by placing seventh in the discus and shot put.
Newnan’s qualifiers in girls preliminaries included Grace Smith in the 800.
There were no preliminaries held among 1,600 relays.