Tyler Craig took the AAAA State Championship in the Pole Vault as well as the new AAAA State Record, at the height of 15’7” he cleared last Thursday in Jefferson. Craig will be vaulting next year for the Bulldogs of Gardner Webb University where he has earned a Track & Field Scholarship.
Dragons Tyler Craig and Drew Bellows are graduating seniors, and both put nice finishing touches on their high school Track & Field careers with outstanding performances at the 2013 Georgia Olympics in Jefferson last week. Craig had the best performance of any high school pole vaulter from any classification in the state of Georgia going into the meet with his vault of 16’5” that set the new 4A Sectional West, Carrollton Track not to mention
PHS School Records at last week’s Sectional Meet. Bellows had qualified in 2 events, the 1600 Meter Run and the 800 Meter Run in which he set the new PHS standard at Sectionals after clocking 1:59.96 over the approximately 1/2 mile distance.
Craig was in action first as he would face the other top 15 pole vaulters in AAAA. The 4A Pole Vault Competition evidenced an impressive entourage of onlookers who wanted the chance to witness arguably the state’s best pole vaulter in action. The forecast called for 15-20 mph gusts, but the wind had not been so much of a factor in the day’s earlier pole vault competitions. When it came time for the 4A competition however, the wind began to blow just about as projected as the huge American flag whipped back and forth just above the pole vault pits. Craig sat and watched as, one by one, his other competitors maxed out in height. When Craig was ready to come in at 14’0”, only Jawayln Brooks of Grady was left in the competition.
Both Brooks and Craig made it over 14’0” followed by the next height of 14’6”. After that, Craig was on his own as Brooks could not make 15’0”. Craig made that height and then raised the bar to 15’7”, one inch over the existing AAAA State Record of 15’6” that was set by Caleb Ebbetts of Lee County in 2010. Craig sailed easily over that height with room to spare and was excited with the prospect of going even higher despite the gusty conditions. The bar was then raised to 16’2” and almost all eyes were on Craig as the p.a. announcer related the new 4A record to the crowd in Jefferson. Craig then gave it his all on 3 valiant attempts at 16’2” to no avail as the bar fell each time. Craig would have to settle for a State Championship in the AAAA Pole Vault along with a new State Record height of 15’7” as his name will now be included on the “Wall of Fame” at Jefferson’s Memorial Stadium.
Bellows was up later Thursday evening in the 1600 Meter Run final along with 15 of the Georgia’s best AAAA milers. Bellows’ best coming into the meet was his time of 4:33.33 at last week’s Sectional Meet in Carrollton. With the sound of the starter’s pistol, Bellows got out quick behind race favorite Daniel Navarro of Marist along with a throng of talented runners. Through the first lap Bellows was mid-pack as had been the pre-race plan and no runner had made any decisive move.
At the 800 meter half-way mark, Navarro along with Andrew Coggins (LaGrange), Michael Thurston (Marist), and Daniel Broadhead (Wayne County) etched a slight gap between Hakeem Mustafaa (Shaw), Bellows of Pickens, Caleb Watson (Mary Persons) and Jimmy Mehrserle (Perry) as the rest of the field trailed. The top 4 edged slightly ahead on the final 2 laps as Mustafaa and Bellows fought for the 5th and 6th spots just behind. Navarro finally cruised to the win in 4:23.10. Bellows and Mustafaa battled all the way down the final 100 meters to finish almost in tandem for a photo finish with Mustafaa crossing the line in 4:29.66 to Bellows’ 4:29.73. Bellows later took his place atop the 6th spot on the medal stand.
Friday would be another test for Bellows as he ran in one of 2 heats including Georgia’s best AAAA 800 Meter Qualifiers. The top 2 qualifiers in each of the 2 heats plus the top 4 fastest times from either heat would make Saturday’s State Finals in the 800 Meters, and Bellows hoped to make the final cut based on his 4th fastest time posted at Sectionals just the week before. Bellows ran in heat 1 which included state favorite Andrew Coggins of LaGrange who had posted the fastest Sectionals time of 1:57.82. The gun sounded and the race was on as Bellows shadowed Coggins through the first 400 meters that was right at about 59 seconds. Bellows edged through a tight opening in the pack to follow Coggins as the pack approached the half-way mark.
Coggins succeeded in leaving the field behind on the last lap, cruising to victory in the heat as Caleb Watson (Mary Persons), Chavis Burns (Eagles Landing), Thadeus Mitchell (Jonesboro) and Bellows of Pickens all clawed their way towards the finish line. As it turned out, 0.04 seconds would preclude Bellows from qualifying for Saturday’s finals as Tyler Sheffel (Westover) at 2:01.30 from the 2nd heat took the final 8th spot. Bellows clocked 2:01.34 for 9th and an agonizingly close finish to his senior season. On Saturday, Coggins would again distance himself from the field and end as AAAA State Champion for 800 Meters at 1:57.57.
Congratulations to Tyler Craig who is AAAA State champion and new State Record Holder in the Pole Vault and to Drew Bellows who placed 6th to medal in the 1600 Meter Run at Jefferson as both capped stellar senior seasons. Craig will be pole vaulting next year with Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb University as he has earned a Track & Field Scholarship. Likewise, Bellows plans to continue his distance running with the Bears of the United States Coast Guard Academy.
PHS Track & Field would like to thank their 2013 sponsors: Renasant Bank, Steve Moranos Allstate, Jasper Counseling Associates, PS Paper, Hemlock Landscape Management and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Dept. The 2013 GHSA Girls’ State Track and Field Meet is all that is left of the competitive track season as State Qualifier Alyssa Weaver will be heading south this Thursday to compete in the AAAA 3200 Meter Final in Albany. Best of luck Alyssa!