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Effingham County athletes shine at Class AAAAAA meet

POSTED: May 14, 2018 4:27 p.m.
Mark Lastinger/staff/

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The Effingham County track team wrapped up its season at the Class AAAAAA state meet in Carrollton where three athletes earned top five finishes.
On the boys’ side, Liam McDonald and Matthew Burnham finished second and fourth in the pole vault, respectively.
McDonald was just shy of clinching the state title after clearing 14 feet but needed an extra attempt to do so, which secured the title for Greenbriar’s Matt Asplund.
In only his second season as a vaulter, McDonald has risen to fame quickly in the AAAAAA ranks. He took up the sport after watching his brother compete and his decision to do so has paid off.
Although his No. 1 goal was to take home a first-place finish, McDonald said he ultimately did exactly what he wanted to do at the meet.
“Last year was my first time ever pole vaulting and I was a sophomore,” he said. “Going into state this year, I knew I had what it takes to get first, but I really just wanted to place high. I also made it to state last year, which was my first year pole vaulting, but I didn’t place at state so I really wanted to do good this year.”
Despite getting off to a slow start this season due to an injury, McDonald bounced back well and spend most of his time working on one specific aspect of his vaulting before the meet.
“In the weeks leading up to state, I practiced nothing but pole vaulting form,” said McDonald. “I knew I had to have perfect or close-to-perfect form if I wanted to win. Placing second at state is a huge achievement for me and hopefully next year I can get first.
"At the beginning of the season, I hurt my ankle so I was a little slow starting out but I managed to make up for the lost time.”
Burnham, who is a junior, set the bar before he made the trip to Carrollton.
“My mindset was knowing that I could place first, so I was not trying to think about it too much,” said Burnham. “I wanted to think it was just another practice.”
Burnham, who cleared 13 feet 6 inches at state, is content with being in the top five, saying the weather was not favorable and did not provide the best conditions for athletes to thrive.
“I am happy with fourth,” said Burnham. “The sun pounding on your back for several hours can drain energy out of you.”
Do-it-all athlete Olivia Brown came up just shy of securing a first-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles.
“I honestly wanted to win and have an awesome (personal record), but everything isn’t promised or just given to you,” said Brown.
The speedster focused on cleaning up the minor details that make a great hurdler.
“Most importantly, I worked on my train leg, my reaction to the start of the gun and especially my form coming off of the hurdle,” said Brown.
Brown, who also competes in the high jump, long jump, 4x100 relay and 300-meter hurdles, said she was pleased with her second-place finish, especially since the event takes a harsh toll on the body.
“Placing second again this year really showed me that everything isn’t given,” said Brown. “There is always someone working towards the same goal as you, and it’s just the matter of who wants it the most. At almost every meet I’m the shortest hurdler. Height plays a big role and, because I am so short, the hurdle kind of passes my waist causing me to collapse over the hurdle as if I am running the 110-meter hurdles like the boys.
"My placement at state really pushed me to my personal best since my ninth grade year so that’s huge accomplishment of this season."

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