Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Shiloh's long jumper Jeremy Mcduffie places first with a jump of 22 feet 8 inches during the Region 8-AAAAAA track and field championships at Archer High School in Lawrenceville Wednesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The opening day of the 2013 Region 8-AAAAAA Track and Field Championships ended with Brookwood poised to defend both the boys and girls team titles each team earned a year ago.
The boys team had first-place finishes in four of the seven event finals run Wednesday at Archer High School and had eight individual qualifiers for next week's state sectional meet on the day to score 69 team points on the day and take a commanding lead over nearest pursuers Shiloh and Parkview.
The Bronco girls, meanwhile, used a late push -- boosted by 1-2 finishes in the long jump and 1,600-meter run to vault past Parkview and Berkmar into the team lead with 53 points heading into today's sprint-event finals.
"You're a little apprehensive about what's going on the first day," Brookwood boys coach Mark Kelley said. "But I thought the kids competed well (Wednesday) and did what they needed to do."
That was especially true of individuals like thrower Jared Munday, who won the shot put with a toss of 50-feet, 6 inches, and finished as runner-up to Parkview John Patterson in the discus by being the only other thrower to break 150 feet at 150-7 , as well as first-place finishers Reece Morrow in the pole vault (13-7), Bailey Vitatoe in the high jump (6-2) and Josh Ingalls in the 1,600 (4:25.70).
Shiloh and Parkview tried to keep up behind big individual performances of their own.
Patterson inched closer to the long-standing school record in the discus by claiming the region title with a toss of 157-8, and help lead the Panthers to third place with 40 team points.
Meanwhile, Shiloh got two event championships from Jeremy Mcduffie, who led a 1-2 sweep with teammate Grant Swinton in the long jump by leaping 22-8 before taking the triple jump at 45-1 to help the Generals into second place at 41 points.
"I was just working on controlling my speed and making sure I hopped off the board right," Mcduffie said. "You get what you need. I feel pretty good about coming in the top of the region."
While there were no multi-event winners in the girls division, there were some extraordinary efforts from relative newcomers to head up the highlights.
Brookwood long jumper Nicole Blanding led a 1-2 Broncos sweep in the event with Camille Bentley by taking the region title with a jump of 17-10.
That leap broke the personal best she had just set last week by more than a foot and capped an emotional day for the senior, who is also in her first year competing in her event.
"I just prayed a lot," Blanding said. "When I got down here, I felt it. I was nervous, but I really felt it. And I haven't ever been to (sectionals) before."
Brookwood also pulled off a 1-2 sweep in the 1,600-meter run, where QuanDra Shanks took first in a time of 5:20.99, followed by teammate Laurel Sumner, who was runner-up in a time of 5:26.46.
Also pulling off a big performance in her first season at her event was Parkview's Mia Marshall, who broke a school record in winning the region title in the shot put with a toss of 42-11 , nearly five feet further than runner-up Queen Briggs of Berkmar, and helping the Panthers stay within striking distance of Brookwood in the team standings with 44 points, just nine points back.
And the senior, who has signed to play basketball at Appalachian State, is excited about her continued improvement as she learns the nuances of her event.
"I feel like I'm peaking at the right time," Marshall said. "This is my first year out here throwing, and I feel like I'm steadily improving. I'm pretty strong and a lift a lot of weights. So, I think that helps. ... Shot put is really about technique and form, and I'm still working on that since I'm a beginner, but it's definitely getting better."
In other girls results, Briggs came back from her runner-up finish in the shot put to win the other throwing event, taking the region discus title with a throw of 113-01, a foot further than runner-up Alliyah Williams of Archer.
Other girls individual event winners included South Gwinnett's Nyasha Grant in the high jump (4-10), Parkview's Kadie Rogers in the pole vault (9-0) and Central Gwinnett's Ismaelle Occeus in the triple jump (36-4 ).