One year ago, the girls track and field teams at Heritage and Salem qualified for the state meet in a combined two events. What a difference a season makes.
Heritage distance runner Jada Fambrough won a region title in the 800 meters and Salem's 1,600-meter relay team finished second, highlighting a successful day for the Rockdale County schools in the Region 8-AAAA track and field championships.
Fambrough out-did her Wednesday performance (region runner-up in 1,600 meters) by blitzing the 800-meter field by more than three seconds (2:25.42). Salem's Shannon Christian qualified for the state meet with a second-place finish (2:28.44) as the two were 1-2 from the start of the two-lap race.
"The win from Jada, she's living up to expectations," Heritage coach Scott Wade said. "Actually, every time you turn around she exceeds them. It's good to have good things happen to very good people."
"Track is something I'm really passionate about. I felt like (my race) was pretty consistent," Christian said. "Jada is a great runner."
Christian joined Alex Pinkston, Jaleen Thomas and Jasmine Springer on the Seminoles' runner-up 1,600-meter relay team, which finished a little more than two seconds behind region titlist Cedar Shoals. Salem's quartet led at the 750-meter mark, but couldn't maintain the pace.
"Cedar Shoals was tough," Christian said. "We definitely didn't hold back any; gave it our all. I feel like we met our expectations."
"I feel good. It was tough ... time was close," Salem coach Dannette Stone said. "Cedar Shoals, they earned it. I'll take second."
The Seminoles, who finished sixth as a team, just missed qualifying in two other events. The 400-meter relay team (Shannon Wiggins, Pinkston, Springer and Christian) finished third, less than a second behind region champion Monroe Area (50.31 to 49.34). Pinkston's time of 1:00.17 was third-best in the 400 meters. On Wednesday, Crystal Seals finished second in the discus throw to complete the Seminoles' state tournament roster.
"This is an improvement," Stone said. "One girl in the pole vault (qualified for the state meet last season). The state is what really counts. We've just got to go and train and get ready."
Heritage also qualified Chantai Harris in the pole vault and Deja White in the high jump Wednesday, and will bring a much-improved team to the Class AAAA state meet in Albany on May 14.
"We're more competitive than we were last year," Wade said. "We made huge steps."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com