Staff Photo: John Bohn Shiloh's Jeremy McDuffie competes in the triple jump during the boys state championship track and field meet held in Jefferson on Thursday.
JEFFERSON -- Several Gwinnett teams always expect to do well in the field events at the Boys State Track and Field Championships.
But it was a bit of the unexpected that was a key factor for a few local Class AAAAAA teams during the first day of this year's competition Thursday at Bryant-Keen Track at Memorial Stadium.
Buoyed by three unexpected personal record performances in the field events, plus a very late sprint by Tyler Woodrome to win the 1,600-meter run, Mill Creek shot into the team lead with 28 points, just one point ahead of Brookwood.
"It's a better day than we expected," Mill Creek coach Rik Moore said. "It's always good to start good and hopefully keep it going. We had three kids that PRed. If the rest of the kids see that, hopefully they'll respond when they see what's going on."
Woodrome definitely responded with his late kick in the meet's last event.
After trailing behind the lead pack, which included Peachtree Ridge's Josh Brickell and Walton's tandem of Kenan Farmer and Brian Sullivan, the Hawks' junior made his move on the bell lap, and shot past all three with a sprint over the final 400 meters and holding off Farmer's last-ditch drive down the last straightaway to win in a time of 4:15.85.
"I went out really slow," Woodrome said. "I guess I had more in me, because I was boxed in the whole time and couldn't really make a move.
"Right at 400 to go, I just started going with Brickell. Sullivan went around Brickell, and stayed with him. Then I just decided to take it with 200 to go. I had a lot in me, still. I always have something at the end of races."
Mill Creek also got personal record performances by Charlton Bassett in the pole vault (fourth, 12-6) and Kaleb Kim (third, 153-6) and Jake Lund (sixth, 144-3) in the discus that helped put the Hawks into the team lead.
Brickell wound up finishing fourth in a time of 4:18.61.
Brookwood coach Mark Kelley definitely expected one of his pole vaulters -- sectional champion Kuttler Smith -- to have a chance to win the competition at the state's highest classification.
However, it was Reece Morrow, following up on his win at the Region 8-AAAAAA meet late last month, who took home first place by clearing 14-feet even, while Smith also gained team points with his seventh-place finish at 12-6.
"It was a pretty good first day," Kelley said. "We expected to get points the first day. We knew that's where our major point production would be. But Reece did a great job. That was unexpected. I'm happy for him. He had a tremendous year."
Combined with a strong day that included two state placings by thrower Jared Munday (state runner-up in shot put, 52-8 and seventh in discus at 142-5), plus one by Bailey Vitatoe (fourth, high jump, 6-6), the pole points helped vault the Broncos to the top of the team standings before Woodrome's heroics in the 1,600 put Mill Creek in front.
And with a host of challengers on their heels, Kelley is hopeful his remaining competitors in the bulk of the running events, which will run preliminary heats today, will be able to earn enough points for the Broncos to stay in position to win a trophy.
"It's going to be tough," Kelley said. "Hillgrove, Mill Creek and Shiloh, those are some tough schools with a lot of speed."
Other Gwinnett individuals and teams responded during Thursday's action.
Two lower classification individuals joined Morrow in winning state championships, and set milestones in the process.
Lanier's Devin Valentine took home first in the Class AAAA triple jump, becoming the first Longhorn state champion in any sport -- team or individual.
Meanwhile, Buford's David Curry pulled off a similar milestone with his title in the Class AAA pole vault by clearing 14-0.
It was the first time a Wolves individual has ever won a state championship in the event, and the first Buford state champion in any event in six years.
Among the other highlights of the day were a state runner-up finish by Parkview's John Patterson in the Class AAAAAA discus with a toss of 156-0, while a runner-up finish in the shot put by Andrew Bartholomei (143-8) and a sixth-place finish by Miller Kettle in the 1,600-meter run (4:40.94) left GAC with 11 teams points, good for a tie for seventh place, after the first day of competition.
Providence Christian also had a good day, with two placings by Candler Martin (fifth in the triple jump, seventh in the long jump), plus a sixth-place finish by Drew Davis in the high jump and a tie for fifth from pole vaulter Eric Reynolds (11-0), left the Storm with 11.5 points.