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Akande, White claim top performer honors

Grayson's Taren White sprints down the straightaway winning the Class AAAAA 200-meter dash during the state championships in Albany on Saturday.

Grayson's Taren White sprints down the straightaway winning the Class AAAAA 200-meter dash during the state championships in Albany on Saturday.

ALBANY -- In addition to awarding individual state champions in each classification, there is another award that is awarded at the State Girls Track and Field Championships each year that is equally coveted.

That is the Al Woodham Best Performance Award, given to the top performer from all classifications for each event.

This year, a pair of runners who call Gwinnett County home -- Collins Hill's Nicky Akande and Grayson's Taren White -- each took home a pair of Al Woodham plaques.

Akande added the Class AAAAA 800-meter state title to the 1,600-meter championship she had won a night earlier in a time of 2:11.22, bettering the times of the champions in the other four classifications.

Meanwhile, White's two Al Woodham plaques -- won with her first-place finishes in the 200 and 400 -- were part of a huge day for the Grayson senior and helped her take home even more hardware.

With her contributions to Grayson's runner-up 400 relay team and 1,600 relay team added in, she accumulated 221/2 points for the Rams' team total, which gave her co-ownership of the Roy W. Crenshaw Memorial Trophy for most running-event points with Monroe's Lakeisha Jackson.

The two titles were the first ones for White in her final trip to the state meet, and capped a year in which she says the addition of the 400-meter run to her work load helped build up her speed.

"I knew it was going to be good competition out there," White said. "They just decided to put me in the 400 this year, and it kind of went from there."

Record runs

After qualifying sixth for Saturday's finals, GAC's 400-meter relay team of Claire Goodson, Jessica Tuggle, Kayin Mujahid and Brittany Arnold nearly shocked all in attendance by holding the lead midway down the final straightaway in the anchor leg.

Though they were eventually caught by the field, the Spartans' time of 49.20 seconds broke the GAC school record.

Tuggle then set an individual school record when she won the 110 hurdles in a time of 14.86 seconds.

"What a way for her to end her career," GAC coach Brad Kinser said. "She just willed herself. She said, 'This is my last race, and I'm going to win this thing.'"

Big day for

Pats and Cats

Two teams who haven't been represented much in the Saturday finals year in and year out were heard from quite a bit in this year's meet.

Berkmar had three different placers in five different events, including a pair of placings by Elexis Guster and Mariah Ransom and Victoria Hines' fourth-place finish in the 100 hurdles, to finish tied for 20th place with 13 points, its largest team total in recent memory.

"I'm really proud of them," coach Brandy Harris said of her Patriots. "We've had kids come down here before, but this is the first year all of them followed through and made it into the (running event) finals. They've done a great job staying focused."

Meanwhile, Duluth posted its first state meet points in at least 13 years according to Wildcats coaches, thanks to the presence of not just one finalist, but two in the same 100-meter dash race in the form of junior Maya Thomas, who finished seventh, and senior Deja Williams, who took eighth.

While the three points, good for 40th place, may not seem like much, Wildcats head coach Fred Ashford said the performance is a significant step forward for the program.

"It's been awhile," Ashford said. "We're in a rebuilding mode. ... Actually, this was a pleasant surprise. We didn't know what to expect coming into (the meet). We knew we had two very good runners in Maya and Deja, but things just kind of fell into place for them."