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Lanier's Valentine sets legacy with state title

Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Devon Valentine is the Daily Post's Field Performer of the Year after winning the Class AAAA state title in the triple jump.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Devon Valentine is the Daily Post's Field Performer of the Year after winning the Class AAAA state title in the triple jump.

For the first two months of the track and field season, Devon Valentine never stepped on the track.

He couldn't.

The Lanier junior moved to Georgia last year and had to miss the first part of the track season as his paperwork got sorted out.

"They wouldn't even let me step on the track because of school regulations," Valentine said.

Once Valentine was able to get on the track, he made the most of it. The Daily Post's Field Performer of the Year won the Class AAAA state championship in the triple jump this year.

"It was pretty awesome," Valentine said. "It's always a great feeling to win a state title. It's a great honor to have a state championship."

For the last three years, Valentine and his mother Taneisha Mack and his younger siblings Savannah, John and Olivia have moved around a lot. Valentine grew up outside of Chicago, went to Marietta Middle School as an eighth-grader and one semester at the high school. His family moved back to Illinois for his sophomore year and returned to Georgia last year.

All of the moving forced Valentine to miss the first part of the track season, but he feels like he's found a home in Lanier.

"I'm starting to get a feel for Georgia," he said.

Valentine won the Class 2A triple state title in Illinois as a sophomore. When he couldn't practice with his new Lanier team, he had to find other ways to train so he wouldn't miss a beat when he got on the track.

"I was kind of down, but I was even more motivated to go after it," Valentine said. "I knew I was behind, so I had to really focus on my technique."

Valentine trained on his own -- running, lifting weights and doing football drills.

"The goal is to always improve," Valentine said. "That's definitely what I wanted to do. I got it once, now let me train harder and get it again."

When he returned, he made his presence felt. Valentine won the Gwinnett County title in the triple jump, the first county track title in school history.

He also added titles at the Region 8-AAAA meet, setting a personal record of 48 feet, 10 inches. That was the state's top jump all year in any classification. He also won the Class AAAA sectional and the state championship with a jump of 47-2.25.

"It's very humbling," Valentine said of his success. "God is the giver of all things. I'm just using my gift he gave me to get where I need to go. Right now that's college. I feel like I have a future in track."

Valentine has received college interest for track and as a slot receiver has drawn attention in football as well.

He became Lanier's first state champion in the school's three-year history. Now he wants to be the first repeat champ.

"It's an honor, man. The goal now is to get another state championship," Valentine said.