History To Be Made at Wingfoot Night of Champions
Now in its third year, the Wingfoot Night of Champions has built a reputation as an exciting culmination to the track and field season for Georgia's best high school athletes on Saturday, May 20. Last year's event saw three of the five fastest times in state history in the boys 300-meter hurdles in an epic showdown between Malik Mixon and Isaiah Taylor. Later in the evening, the state record in the girl's 800 meters fell at the meet for the second year in a row when Isis Symone Grant ran 2:07.61 to tie her old Sandy Creek teammate Gabriella Grissom's previous record. The meet also featured historic jumps with Liv Bollenbacher of Cambridge recording the state's ninth-best pole vault performance of all time in 12-10.25 and in 2021 with Grant Briscoe jumping the sixth- best boys' mark in state history with a jump of 16-8.5. With the startlists just released for this year's edition, the meet at Georgia Tech promises to carry on the tradition of thrilling action. Here's a look at some of the night's hottest competitions.
Girls 300-Meter Hurdles
This race features the top five performers in the state this year, two of which are ranked in the top five in the nation and all of which have rewritten the state record books. Marianna Wright of Monroe ran 40.81 to win the 3A state title last weekend, putting herself at the top of the Georgia all-time list for the event and recording the third-fastest time in the nation in 2023. The sophomore will face Olivia Powell of Woodward for the first time. Powell, a senior, ran 41.07 at sectionals, which was the all-time best until Wright grabbed it just one week later. It's still the fifth-fastest time in the U.S. this season. There's no question that Powell, an Ohio State commit, wants to end her high school career with a victory, but this won't be a two-person race. Jasmine Robinson of North Cobb has run 41.80 this season, Georgia's eighth-fastest time ever. Heading into the meet, Wright, Powell and Robinson are all undefeated in 2023. That won't be the case come the end of Saturday night.
An undefeated streak will also come to an end in the 100 meter. Sanaa Frederick of Druid Hills clocked 11.41 to win the 4A state championship last weekend, the fastest time in the state this year and the seventh- fastest in Georgia history. Hillgrove's Ryan Davis is not far behind. She ran 11.47 at the Cobb County Championships and has the state's second-fastest time of the season and eighth-fastest in state history. Keira Beaumont, a sophomore from North Cobb, will look to spoil the duel between the two juniors. She's lost only four times this season, all in taking second to Davis. She could make this showdown even more thrilling.
This race has a long history of making history. Four of the top five times on the state's all-time list were set at this meet or its predecessor, the Meet of Champions. Last year at New Balance Nationals, Sandy Creek's Isis Symone Grant ran 2:07.61 to tie her former teammate Gabriella Grissom's state record. Grissom set that record at the 2021 Wingfoot Night of Champions, narrowly defeating Harrison's Riley Perlakowski, whose time is now fifth on the all-time list. Grant is back this year, but she is no longer the state record-holder. That title now belongs to South Cobb's Oluwatosin Awoleye. The sophomore ran 2:07.40 at regionals earlier this month before going on to win the 6A state title. She'll face Grant for the first time Saturday night. Grant has run fast this year, but has been relatively untested in 3A. The Oklahoma State commit won the state title by eight seconds. Awoleye hasn't had it as easy: She had to outlean Woodward's Kenyah Connor at the state meet. Connor put up a fight by running 2:08.80, the ninth-fastest time in state history. All three could push each other to history tomorrow night.
Girls Shot Put
Eight of the state's top 10 throwers in 2023 will step into the ring on Saturday night. Douglas County's Skylar Soli has been Georgia's clear No. 1 all season, but struggled at the state meet and suffered her first loss of the season, placing third. She'll look for revenge against the 6A thrower who beat her, Woodstock's Kyndal McKinney. And Archer's Christianne Akintayo - the No. 2 shot putter in Georgia this year - will try to remain undefeated in 2023. But that's not necessarily the clear-cut top three, as six girls have thrown over 43 feet this year and will be competing in the meet.
Girls Pole Vault
The nine top vaulters in the state will go head-to-head Saturday night. They include Hart County junior Amelia Johnson, who holds the sixth-best mark in Georgia history with her 13-0 from the Eagle Invitational. The 3A state champion will face the Galloway School's Adair Carlin, the second-best vaulter in the state in 2023 with 12-6.25, and four girls who have gone 12-6: Silvana Lopez-Ramirez (West Forsyth), Madison Townsend (Westminster), Noelle Hambrick (Bremen) and Libby Jackson (Hebron Christian).
Other highlights for the girls include…
Long jump - Three state champions and four jumpers ranked in the U.S. top 25 are in the field.
Triple Jump - Alexander's Alisa Gordon comes into the meet ranked No. 1 in the nation, but Sandy Creek's Ryan Lewis is ranked sixth in the U.S. and is the only jumper to beat Gordon this season. They'll face off again Saturday.
Four of the fastest 200-meter times in state history have been run this month by four boys, two of whom will face off in this race Saturday. Langston Hughes' Maurice Gleaton is a sophomore and on his way to being one of the best sprinters in state history. He broke the state record in the 100 meters this year and is No. 2 all time in the 200-meter with his 20.52 trailing only current NFL superstar Tyreek Hill. In the first of his two races of the evening, he'll race Westlake sophomore Sidi Njie, another generational talent who now holds the state record in the 400 meters but is electing to race only the shorter distance, where he is ranked ninth on Georgia's all-time list.
Gleaton will double back in the 100 meters in an attempt to better his 10.14 mark from the prelims at the state meet, which broke an 8-year-old state record and is the fourth-fastest time in the country this year. But much like in the 200 meters, the 100-meter record books have been rewritten in 2023, with five of the fastest times in history run this season. Three of the boys who hold them will be in the blocks Saturday night, including Alexander's Eric Singleton, who beat Gleaton in the finals just hours after Gleaton ran the state record. They'll race Southeast Bulloch's Curtis Coleman, who has run 10.34 this year but struggled to a fifth-place finish at the 4A state meet, and Miller Grove's Ali Dargen, who has come on strong at the end of the season, running a massive personal best of 10.36 to claim the 4A state championship.
Boys 110-Meter Hurdles
Southwest Dekalb's Isaiah Taylor is the best 300-meter hurdler in the country this year, but the son of Olympic Gold Medalist Angelo Taylor will compete only in the shorter distance, where the competition features five state champions and four boys who have run under 13.8. They include Dutchtown's Nasia Lee, who finished one spot ahead of Taylor when Lee was runner-up at last year's Wingfoot Night of Champions.
13 of the state's 15 top throwers are on the heat sheets for this year's Wingfoot Night of Champions. Expect a showdown between two undefeated throwers - Tahir Hines of Allatoona and Christian Dixon of Dutchtown. Both have thrown over 173 feet this year, four feet farther than anyone else in the competition.
Boys Long Jump
Two of the top 10 jumpers in the country this year - Mill Creek's Joseph Alexander (fifth) and New Manchester's undefeated Nicolas Crosswhite (10th) are the 7A and 6A state champions, respectively, and sit first and third on the state's 2023 list. They will battle it out with Whitewater's Braeden Ofosu-Kwarteng, who is ranked 12th in the nation this year but will want to bounce back from a disappointing state meet, where he placed fourth.
Other highlights for the boys include…
Pole vault - The field includes four state champions and eight of the state's top-10 marks in 2023, including Whitefield's Brenden Vanderpool, whose 14-6 is 20th in the country this season.
Shot put - Three state champions and six of the top 10 throwers in the state face off. The favorite is Westminster's Phillips Moore, whose 59-10.25 is more than 2 feet farther than any thrower in the competition. He's undefeated in Georgia this season.