That drought came to an end for the Lions as they won the Class AA team title at the state girls’ meet in Albany last Saturday.
Lovett won in dominating fashion, scoring 92 points to finish far ahd of runner-up Thomasville (51). Westminster (38.50) also earned a spot on the awards podium with a fourth-place finish behind third-place Wesleyan (42).
For Lovett coach Charlie Finch, it was an exciting moment for he and his Lions as they clinched the school’s first girls’ track crown since 1996.
Finch – a 1994 graduate of Lovett — is no stranger to state titles, having helped lead the Lions to the AA boys’ team title as an athlete in 1992 and ’93 as well as winning three individual crowns – the 3,200-meter run in both ’93 and ’94 and the 1,600 in ’93.
“We’ve come close a few years, so to win it was really special,” Finch said. “I’ve got some kids on my team who joke about the fact that they hadn’t been born yet when Lovett won its last championship. So, being able to win a championship as an individual and win it as a team [as an athlete] and finally coach a team [to the state title] is incredibly gratifying. But, it also speaks to the love that I have for the school and the track and field program at Lovett. I was thrilled about how the girls performed.”
It is the fifth state championship for the Lovett girls, who won previous title in 1983, ’89 and ’91 as well as ’96.
Hailey Branch and Serena Tripodi swept the distance events in AA for Lovett. Branch won the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11 minutes, 14.16 seconds – with Tripodi finishing runner-up (11:15.91) and Westminster’s Gabby Bunnell (11:29.82) third – while Tripodi claimed the 1,600 in 5:13.16 – with Bunnell (5:15.39) placing second and Branch (5:18.85) third.
The Lions were also led by Nicole Teague’s win in the triple jump with a mark of 37-feet-0½.
Khadejah Jackson also played a big role in Lovett’s championship performance with a runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles (44.95 seconds), a third-place showing in the triple jump (35-8½) and a fourth-place result in the 400 (1:00.13). The Lions also placed third in the 1,600-meter relay (4:12.50) and fourth in the 400 relay (50.51 seconds).
Atlanta International’s Helen Audrey Williams swept the distance events with record-breaking performances in the Class A private school competition.
The freshman standout won the 1,600 with a state meet-record time of 5:00.47, breaking the old mark of 5:02.05 set by Pace’s Kelly Cook in 1992, as well as claiming the 3,200 with a new record mark of 10:40.98, surpassing the previous record of 10:50.34 set by Landmark’s Lindy Long last year.
Also in the Class A private school meet, Holy Innocents’ athlete Chelsea Zoller won the 400 (57.49 seconds) and was runner-up in the 200 (25.10 seconds), while Pace’s Lauren Hadley won the 300 hurdles (47.12 seconds).
Pace earned a spot on the Class A private school podium with a fourth-place finish, while Holy Innocents’ was 11th, Atlanta International – on the strength of Williams’ state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 – was 13th and Mount Vernon Presbyterian was 17th.
North Springs earned a eighth-place showing in AAAAA, while Riverwood was 27th and North Atlanta 40th.