By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
As the track and field season dwindles down, school records and personal bests continue to sprout up for South Effingham and Effingham County athletes.
Top Mustangs and Rebels competed at the Class 6A Sectional A championships (with Region 1,2,3 and 8 athletes) May 6 at Apalachee High School in Winder with the top eight finishers in each event earning spots at the state championships in Rome, Georgia, May 11-13.
South's Amari Branch finished seventh in the 400-meter run, posting a school-record 50.07 to break his own mark by .22 of a second set at the region meet a week earlier.
Branch was also part of the Mustangs' 4 X 400 relay, teaming with Devin Hallman, Isaiah Campbell and Kaleb Hodges, to run a 3:22.80 (a third-place finish at Sectionals) to break the school's previous best of 3:28.47 set in 2018.
The same foursome placed seventh and qualified for state in the 4 X 800 relay with a time of 8:17.01 – about a second off the school record.
"We've tried to break away from going to a lot of meets (during the regular season) and instead we'll go at race-pace in practice and I think that's helped with their legs (staying fresh) at the end of the season," SEHS coach Rico Campbell said. "I feel like the intensity in training has helped."
Effingham County had its share of outstanding performances as well. The girls' 4 X 200 relay team of Kameryn Watson, Zaria Anderson, Victoria Foskey and Dionna Rivers combined for a season-best time of 1:47.12 to place eighth.
Rebels' senior Brooke Maseda finished fifth in both the 1600 and 3200 and freshman Braylin Nease jumped 4-10 in the high jump to take eighth.
"I wouldn't say they surprised me, but they competed at a high level," ECHS coach Jordan Brown said. "It was hot at practice during the week and we were sluggish, but I went to Sectionals with the mindset, 'whatever God has in store for us will happen and we're just going to run with the wind.' "
The Rebel boys' 4 X 100 relay team of Timmy Brown, Dakarai Walker, Cory Dekle and Jeremiah Chance placed seventh with a time of 42.56 and the girls' region-winning 4 X 200 relay squad of Kameryn Watson, Zaria Anderson, Victoria Foskey and Dionna Rivers had a season-best time of 1:47.12 to finish eighth.
Levi Thomas ran a personal-best 2:02.00 in the 400, but placed 12th in the stacked field.
For South, junior Aubrey Edge, the girls school record holder in the pole vault, posted a season-best 9-6 (just three inches off her record) for fourth place.
High jumper Riley Browne jumped 4-10 for fifth place and the 4 X 800 relay team of Brianna Barber, Maggie Morgan, Mia Fitzpatrick and Lily McDonald had a time of 10:30.93 for sixth place.
McDonald shaved more than 10 seconds off her second-place Regional time to place sixth in the 3200 with a 12:32.88.
Christeon Lewis was eighth in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.62.
On May 7, sophomore high jumper Kimberlea Coppin received some good news: Despite finishing ninth, she gained entry to state after a competitor was forced to withdraw.
For the boys, Tyler Phillips used a strong leg in the final 200 meters to clinch eighth in the 1600 with a 4:38.78.
According to www.athletic.net, Hallman ran the fastest 800 time at South in four years, a personal-best 2:01.32, but finished in ninth.
The Mustang girls' record-setting 4 X 200 relay team fell .32 of a second short of its previous mark (1:49.40) while placing 14th.
Local athletes competing at Sectionals
ECHS boys: Jeremiah Chance (100, 11.09, 11th and 200, 22.59, 12th), Dakarai Walker (200, 22.71, 14th), Levi Thomas (800, 2:02.00, 12th), 4 X 100 relay (Timmy Brown, Dakarai Walker, Cory Dekle, Jeremiah Chance, 42.56, 7th).
ECHS girls: Brooke Maseda (1600, 5:38.91, 5th and 3200, 12:32.62, 5th), 4 X 200 relay (Kameryn Watson, Zaria Anderson, Victoria Foskey, Dionna Rivers 1:47.12, 8th), Braylin Nease (HJ, 4-10, 8th).
SEHS boys: Amari Branch (400, 50.07, 7th), Devin Hallman (800, 2:01.32, 9th), Tyler Phillips (1600, 4:38.78, 8th), 4 X 400 relay (Hallman, Kaleb Hodges, Isaiah Campbell, Branch, 3:22.80, 3rd) and the 4 X 800 relay (Isaiah Campbell, Branch, Hallman, Hodges, 8:17.01, 7th)
SEHS girls: Caroline Motes (400, 1:03.97, 10th), Lily McDonald (1600, 5:59.96, 11th and 3200, 12:32.88, 6th), Christeon Lewis (100H, 15.62, 8th and 300H, 50.07, 15th), 4 X 200 relay (Aubrey Edge, Briana Williams, Motes, Madison Mills, 1:49.72, 14th), 4 X 400 relay (Motes, Summer Cole, Christeon Lewis, Riley Browne, 4:19.99, 11th), 4 X 800 relay (Brianna Barber, Maggie Morgan, Mia Fitzpatrick, McDonald, 10:30.93, 6th), Browne (HJ, 4-10, 5th), Kymberlea Coppin (HJ, 4-8, 9th), Mills (TJ, 31-5.25, 13th), Aubrey Edge (Pole, 9-6, 4th), Allie Grassi (Pole, 8-0, 9th), Jamie Grooms (Pole, 7-6, 11th) and Fitzpatrick (Discus, 68-4, 14th).