By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
RICHMOND HILL — South Effingham’s Cheyenne Ryan had some ground to make up when she grabbed the baton to run the anchor leg of the Mustangs’ 4x800 relay at the April 21 Region 2-AAAAAA track and field championships.
The race leader had a cushion of about 150 meters.
“I didn’t know if I could catch her. I just went as fast as I could,” Ryan said.
“Try your best. You’ll be glad you did,” was a phrase Georgia Southern’s late football coach Erk Russell often told his players.
Ryan tried her best and was glad she did. With a memorable effort, the SEHS junior seemingly made up distance with every stride and crossed the finish line first by .32 of a second to capture a region title for the quartet that included Brianna Barber, Mia Fitzpatrick and Lily McDonald.
The time of 10:26.78 set a school record — one of four the Mustangs produced on the 82-degree day.
The top four finishers in each event at region advanced to the Sectionals, which will be held May 8 at John’s Creek.
Ryan, who gave up soccer to concentrate on track this spring, also teamed with Caroline Motes, Madison Hodges and Alex Brown to break the school record in the 4x400 relay with a time of 4:14.60. Despite the record-setting performance, the team placed third in the region.
“This is a tough region, but we knew that walking in,” said SEHS coach Laura Soles, whose squad turned in 40 personal-best times or distances during the day.
Versatile Mustangs junior Cameron Edwards won the triple jump by 7 ½ inches at 43-9 and was third in the high jump (6-0) and fourth in the long jump (21-3.75).
Jake Kerns won the discus with a throw of 141-8.
Effingham County’s Candace Kieffer ran a top-25 time in the state while capturing the region’s 1600 crown and breaking her previous school record with a time of 5:14.69.
Kieffer, the region’s cross country champion, also placed second in the 3200 with a time of 11:48.16.
SEHS’ Jacob Mitchell, Cailan Howard, Tyler Phillips and Julian Howard teamed to set a school record in the 4x800 relay with a time of 8:30.91 — third place in the meet.
Mustangs’ pole vaulter Sydney Sticha had a vault of 8-0, breaking the school record while finishing second.
Ryan had third-place individual performances in the 1600 (5:34.48) and 800 (2:31.11).
Brown was third in the 200 (25.99) and fourth in the high jump (5-0).
And Diya Patel was fourth in the 3200 (13:28.39).
The boys’ 1600 run in the morning produced an exciting ending. Mustangs’ Cailan Howard ran a personal-best 4:32.84 but placed second by .37 of a second. Mitchell finished less than a second behind Howard for third place.
Mitchell, who signed with USC-Beaufort earlier in the spring, ran a personal best 2:04.72 while placing third in the 800. Howard was fourth in the 3200 (10:20.18).
ECHS athletes also qualifying for Sectionals were Megan Hilton, Roneisha Goss, Enna Lackey, Abby McDonald and Skyllar Hoenshell.
Hilton, who has the school record in the 800, finished second by .46 of a second. Goss, a freshman, turned in personal best times in the 100 (12.52, third place) and 200 (25.70, second place).
Lackey was second in the 100 hurdles (16.56) and Abby McDonald was second in the shot put (33-0) and third in the pole vault (7-6).
Hoenshell was fourth in the 400 (1:00.38).