Staff Photo: John Bohn Mill Creek's Class AAAAAA 1600 meter relay team of Brandon Holley, left, Michael Cheeks, second from left, Tyler Woodrome, second from right, and Allen Eckles, right, celebrate their first place victory during the state championship boys track meet is held in Jefferson on Saturday. Mill Creek won the Class AAAAAA team title.
Click here for a full listing of Saturday's state placers.
JEFFERSON -- As Michael Cheeks got in the blocks for his 200 meter run, the constant rain amped up from a steady drizzle a heavy pour.
The Mill Creek sprinter didn't notice.
Everyone was wet and cold and he had bigger things on his mind. The Hawks had entered the day with a slim lead over Hillgrove, Brookwood, Walton and a tough field at the boys state track and field championships at Jefferson. There were three races to go, but this was the last time the Hawks would face Hillgrove, their only competitor for a team state title, head-to-head.
"I knew what we needed," Cheeks said. "I was expecting to redeem myself from the bad performance I had in the 400 earlier. I really didn't do what I expected."
He did in the 200.
Cheeks bolted out of the blocks and by the time he hit the corner the 200-meter sprint was his, winning it in 22.01 seconds and propelling Mill Creek its first boys team state track and field championship.
"The 200, we knew, was a critical race," Mill Creek head coach Rik Moore said. "Michael out-performed. He scored more than we needed or more than we hoped. He came through really big on that."
The eight points gave the Hawks enough of a cushion that entering the day's final race, the 1,600-meter relay, the team state title was in hand.
The Hawks relay team, which includes Cheeks, celebrated by winning the title in that event, besting North Gwinnett by more than two seconds.
The critical lap came on the third leg turned in by 1,600-meter champion Tyler Woodrome.
Woodrome turned a small lead into an insurmountable one on his turn around the soggy track.
"Victory lap, it was a victory lap," a smiling Woodrome said. "I knew I had to finish strong after my performance in the 800."
First it was just the four celebrating, then the rest of the team remaining at the track joined them near the podium.
It was a weekend dominated from the start by the Hawks, who didn't just ride a few events to the title, but rather gobbled up as many points as they could in any and every event. From the start of the meet, Mill Creek was near the top of the team leaderboard.
"We talked about scoring," Moore said. "All year we said everybody has to do their part. Any point counts. That's the key to win winning a championship, not just super athletes winning everything.
"It started off great that first day. That set the tone."
On Saturday alone the Hawks put up two first places, a third place and a fourth place.
"The kids just kept going today," Moore said.
After Woodrome's "victory lap," Mill Creek ended the meet winning by 16 points over Hillgrove. Brookwood finished third with 35 points and Shiloh finished fifth with 30. North Gwinnett finished sixth and Grayson and Peachtree Ridge tied for 13th.