POWDER SPRINGS — In 2014, Hebron Christian launched its track and field program with big dreams and one key missing piece — an actual track.
The Lions’ initial practices were in the parking lot before later using nearby Dacula's track to train 28 athletes who were new to the sport.
“We had no real direction of what we were doing or how we were going to get it done, but it was fun,” Hebron head coach Terrence Melton said. “We had some great kids.”
Those humble beginnings were on Melton’s mind Saturday as his girls team won the Class A Private state championship with 112 points as part of a Gwinnett 1-2-3 finish with second-place Wesleyan (78) and third-place Providence Christian (54). The Lions now have a posh, new track and a big trophy coming home to the Dacula private school.
“It has been a long road, bumpy, some highs, some lows, but it’s been fulfilling the whole way,” Melton said. “It’s just exciting. The kids have been great. It’s just been fun to see them progress. It’s just super exciting for them. I’m sure the kids I’ve had in the past, all the alumni, they’re just as excited for the kids now. This couldn’t have been possible without them.”
The current Lions, led by Layton Glisson’s huge day, left no doubt in their historic performance.
Hebron won the 400 relay in 49.08 seconds with the foursome of Glisson, Bella Rodriguez, Kennedy Truitt and Nija Riley, and Glisson, Riley, Brooke Browning and Claire McGuirt teamed up to win state in the 1,600 relay at 4:02.08.
Glisson won the 100 in 12.61, just ahead of the 12.62 posted by Audrey Vandagriff of Prince Avenue Christian, and was first in the 200 in 25.60. The sweep of the sprints was impressive for the senior, who participated in track briefly in 2019 but focused on it more this season.
The Auburn soccer signee excelled in both sports this spring for Hebron, her first competing full-time for the Lions after previously dedicating herself to her U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. She is one of several Hebron girls track athletes who juggle multiple sports in the spring.
“(Glisson) was phenomenal,” Melton said.
Riley had a pair of fifth-place finishes Saturday to help the cause in the 400 (58.86) and 200 (26.25), while Browning (fourth, 2:18.20) and Ellie Brewer (fifth, 2:21.53) scored in the 800. Brewer was huge the previous two days with a state title in the 3,200 and a runner-up finish in the 1,600, and Hebron also scored well in the field events, highlighted by Rachael Ruff’s pole vault state championship.
Glisson’s big day individually was matched by another Gwinnett star, Ayden Drake. The Providence Christian senior won state titles in the 100 hurdles (15.21) and 300 hurdles (44.82), and also was third in the 400 (57.22). Teammate Ellison Chadwick was vital to the Storm’s third-place finish in the team standings by placing fourth in the 100 (12.69) and third in the 200 (25.94).
The runner-up Wesleyan girls were paced by two runner-up finishes from Nea Sanders in the 400 (57.20) and the 300 hurdles (45.84). The Wolves’ Sade Ojanuga was fourth in the 100 hurdles (16.03) and Margaret Dudley was sixth in the 100 hurdles (16.24) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (47.19). Ojanuga and Sanders teamed up with Katherine Graddy and Sophie Villa on a second-place 1,600 relay (4:07.78).
Gwinnett had two boys state placers Saturday — Providence’s Colin O’Leary in the 400 (fourth, 49.91) and Wesleyan’s Stafford McDaniel in the 800 (seventh, 2:03.54).