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Peachtree Ridge captures region crown

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Collins HIll's Monique Bennett, left, just beats Peachtree Ridge's Sonikqua Walters to the finish line as Walters loses her footing and falls forward during the 400 meter dash on Tuesday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Collins HIll's Monique Bennett, left, just beats Peachtree Ridge's Sonikqua Walters to the finish line as Walters loses her footing and falls forward during the 400 meter dash on Tuesday.

SUWANEE -- With the weather changing dramatically from hot to cold and windy with a lot of rain in between, conditions were hardly perfect for the sprint event finals of the Region 7-AAAAA Girls Track and Field Championships.

But Peachtree Ridge dealt with the conditions well, qualifying four individuals and a relay team for the state meet to finish off its second region title in the last three years Tuesday at Collins Hill's Fahring Field.

Including the qualifiers from the field events a day earlier, the Lions will be sending five individuals in six events, plus a relay team, to the Class AAAAA state meet May 12-14 in Albany, including Autumn Burnette, who made state in both the 100-meter intermediate and 300 low hurdles.

"We've been dodging a bullet since April 3," Lions head coach Venson Elder said. "It's going to be a tough road for us (at state). We've got a shot, but it's going to be rough. We'll go for it. Stranger things have happened."

Strange things were happening early in the meet, with photo finishes in the first two races --with Collins Hill edging Duluth for the second state berth behind champion Peachtree Ridge in the 400-meter relay, while the Eagles' Monique Bennett edged the Lions' Sonikqua Walters by 16 hundredths of a second to win the 400-meter dash.

And despite a pair of weather delays, there were some excellent performances, including Burnette, who won the 100 hurdles in a time of 14.39 seconds and the 300 hurdles in a time of 45.18 seconds.

Also winning two different events Thursday was Duluth's Maya Thomas, who took first in both the 100 (12.23 seconds) and 200 (25.10) dashes.

It was a feat she had been targeting since finishing first in the 100 and second in the 200 a year ago.

"Actually, I've been wanting (the double titles) since I was in ninth grade," said Thomas, who also will run at state with the 1,600 relay team, which finished second to Collins Hill. "This is a big moment for me. ... This is how I wanted to end my senior season. This is what I've been working for -- getting to this point."

Peacthree Ridge runners also worked hard throughout the afternoon, and the Lions put things away with two big races late.

First, Burnette's second win of the day was supplemented by a third-place finish from Kendra Purifoye for 16 big team points.

Then, with heavy rain falling, Lauren Kelly finished just behind Collins Hill's Chloe Whitworth in the 3,200-meter run to qualify for state, and Addy Lippitt added three more team points with her sixth-place finish to basically put Peachtree Ridge in front to stay.

"The 300 hurdles really closed the door," Elder said. "And Lauren's a great athlete."

Collins Hill's Sydney Williams was the other individual winner of the day in the 800, while AmBria Horn of Norcross (100 dash and 300 hurdles), Kamilah Baker of Norcross (100 hurdles), Rose Howell of North (800) and Shakurah Moss of Duluth (200) also qualified for state with second-place finishes.


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