ATLANTA - It took a while for the sun to come out over the Westminster track on Monday. But when it did, it gave Lauren Kester a nice, sunny, two-mile stroll.
The Greater Atlanta Christian sophomore turned in one of the more impressive performances at the Region 6-AA track finals, winning the 3,200 meters in 11 minutes, 46.59 seconds. It would take another 11 seconds for another runner to cross the finish line.
"It was nice having the last two laps to relax," Kester said. "I went out fast in the beginning. I was surprised at how fast (the pace) was the first lap."
And that first lap was all Kester's. She had the lead from the first steps and had put 500 meters between herself and the rest of the region three laps later. It was never close.
"I did plan to pull out after the first two laps," the back-to-back region champion said. "It is challenging, mentally, because you know everyone is behind you. Everyone just follows your pace."
The Spartan also qualified in 1,600 meters next weekend in Albany, winning gold in that event on Saturday by two seconds.
"She has that ability to put people away," GAC head coach Brad Kinser said. "She ran the first mile very well and just took control."
Now Kester will try to take control of the 200 meters she let slip away in last year's state final. She was passed by North Oconee's Rachel Greenwall, now a sophomore, just before the finish and lost the title by three seconds.
"She's been thinking about that for a long time," Kinser said.
Joining Kester at the AA state championships will be Jessica Tuggle. The multi-event star will add the 100-meter hurdles to her already extensive itinerary. The junior took second in 15.68 seconds, about a second behind Westminster's Mirav Seward.
Tuggle also helped the 400-meter relay team earn a trip south. The Spartans beat Lovett for .08 seconds to finish in second place in one of the more entertaining races of the day. Tuggle, Claire Godson, Brittany Arnold and Morgan McKnight all put together impressive times. Freshmen Arnold and McKnight ran the final two legs.
"The freshmen can get a little nervous, but they did a great job," Kinser said. "They broke the school record. McKnight ran a prefect backstretch and held off the girl from Lovett (Chloe Johnson)."
Tuggle ran the lead leg. She's also qualified in the high jump and long jump.
But GAC was unable to hold on to its first day five-point lead. The Spartans fell back to third with 103 points. Decatur won with 139 points. Buford finished seventh with 20 points. The top four in Region 6-AA also happen to be the top four ranked teams in the state.
The Wolves also may have suffered the biggest heartbreaker of the day. Buford's Kallie Case missed her trip to Albany in the 200 meters by .05. She battled with Winshanai Gandy of Lovett down the entire backstretch, but took third in a time of 26.31 seconds.
SideBar: Region Track
Region 6-AA track and field championships
At Westminster School
1. Decatur, 139
2. Lovett, 124
3. GAC, 103
4. Westminster, 98
5. Blessed Trinity, 77
6. Avondale, 55
7. Buford, 20
8. Cross Keys, 5
1. Decatur, 49.34
2. GAC, 50.03
1. Queen Alford, Decatur, 58.57
2. Bridgette Brown, Avondale, 58.60
1. Shunika Jarrells, Avondale, 12.67
2.Chloe Johnson, Lovett, 12.94
1.Mirav Seward, Westminster, 14.66
2.Jessica Tuggle, GAC, 15.68
1.Queen Alford, Decatur, 2:22.03
2.Kristiana Towns, Decatur, 2:22.97
1. Shunika Jarrells, Avondale, 25.67
2. Winshanai Gandy, Lovett, 26.26
1. Mirav Seward, Westminster, 45.22
2. Ashleigh Rasheed, Decatur, 46.79
1. Lauren Kester, GAC, 11:46.59
2. Elizabeth Rucker, Lovett, 11:57.54
1. Avondale, 3:59.18
2. Decatur, 4:00.26